As most of us probably know, the highway can be a very dangerous place at times. It can be especially dangerous on holidays such as the 4th of July and St. Patrick’s Day when many people choose to consume large amounts of alcohol and drive. As a result, many of us have probably been forced to stop at a sobriety checkpoint. Though some argue that they are unconstitutional, I believe that the benefits out weigh the costs.
According to lawinfo.com, sobriety check points are roadblocks set up on anonymous highways with the purpose of catching drunk drivers. Generally, law enforcement will announce ahead of time that a road block will be taking place, but they will not announce where it will be. Law enforcement also usually sets these roadblocks up during the night, weekends, or on holidays in the belief that there will be more people driving impaired at these times. Another key aspect of a sobriety checkpoint is randomness. The method of determining who gets stopped and who does not must be completely random in order to ensure fairness. Some jurisdictions solve this by stopping everyone; others select every 12th car, for example.
There are many potential benefits to sobriety checkpoints. In announcing when there will be sobriety checkpoints, but not where, it seems that law enforcement is hoping that there will be a deterrent effect. It makes sense that if people knew that they would be more likely to be pulled over, they would be less likely to drive under the influence. Another benefit to sobriety checkpoints is that they effectively remove impaired drivers from the road. This makes the roads much safer for everyone, and helps to prevent accidents before they happen. Another good aspect of sobriety checkpoints is the fact that they are random. If law enforcement is instructed to stop everyone, then there is no room for prejudice or discrimination, which makes it more just for everyone.
According to duicheckpoints.org, the argument against sobriety checkpoints centers on the 4th amendment. The 4th amendment protects citizens against unreasonable searches and requires that law enforcement have probable cause to arrest or to search private property. Some people consider sobriety checkpoints to violate this because officers do not have probable cause to pull all drivers over. The Supreme Court has ruled that, while checkpoints do violate this constitutional right, the state’s authority to decrease drunk driving outweighs this minor encroachment on citizen’s rights. Though the Supreme Court has ruled in favor of sobriety checkpoints, many states have taken it upon themselves to declare them illegal either due to violating the federal constitution or the state constitution. Currently, sobriety checkpoints are conducted in 38 states, including Illinois, and prohibited in 12. (For a complete list click here ). In a few states, it is also law that citizens do not have to respond to officers if they ask whether they have been drinking because this would violate the 5th amendment, which guards citizens against self-incrimination.
To summarize, sobriety checkpoints do infringe on the rights of citizens, but in the eyes of the Supreme Court, the benefit of removing impaired drivers from the roads and deterring them from driving altogether outweighs this infringement. Though sobriety check points can be frustrating, as evidenced by the YouTube video, most people accept them, and are glad they are conducted because they make the roads safer for everyone.