Last week, we asked a few local bar owners how DWI task force checkpoints affected their business over the summer, and reader reaction to the piece ranged from vehement support of the checkpoints to questioning if they are Constitutional or not.
Here are a few comments generated from the issue. Feel free to chime in below if you missed the original article.
"I think the checkpoints, themselves are wrong. I'm all for stopping drunk driving, but I'm not in favor of police checkpoints stopping everyone to see if they may have broken a law. If they're stopping everyone, why not search the car for drugs, and check citizenship papers too? Has the accident rate dropped on the North Fork or did some people just get promotions for making more arrests? Clearly on the North Fork, its like shooting fish in a barrell. There are only 2 access roads, and with the limit for impaired lowered to .05, just about anyone who's had a drink at all can be arrested. Why not stop pedestrians on the street to see if they're breaking any laws? Oh, that's right, they do that in NYC. Where are we headed?" — Jim Ryan
"How do you propose they try to enforce this law? It seems much more equitable and even-handed to run everyone through a checkpoint. Would you rather they randomly pull people over? That was ruled unconstitutional in Delaware vs. Prouse. Let me guess, you want them to establish probable cause. The problem with that is that it requires unsafe and risky driving be observed prior to pulling the driver over. A few cops covering many, many roads and that seems like finding a needle in a haystack. Perhaps hitting a van carrying a mom and small children would be probable cause enough for you. The reason we a paying for policing is to stop that from happening." — joe insider
"The 4th Amendment protects the citizenry, patriots and rubes alike, from unlawful search and seizure. That this happens in a car or in your house isn't the point, the law must be applied without exception - as it is in some states but not NY. I fully accept that checkpoints scoop up offenders - but so would house-to-house searches for aliens and you wouldn't tolerate that I'm sure. I fully accept that driving is a privilege - but you do not throw out the constitution when you take to the road. Would you allow the same treatment for walking on the sidewalk? Walking on the sidewalk is a privilege because it's not yours either." jim
"The Idaho Supreme Court took arguably the most pejorative view of roadblocks declaring them violative of the Idaho roadblock statute as well as the state constitution, not to mention ineffective based on the record before the court. In State of Idaho v. Henderson (1988), a case decided two years before the Supreme Court’s decision in Sitz, the court observed that “[p]erhaps the most important attribute of our way of life in Idaho is individual liberty. ..police treat you as a criminal only if your actions correspond. Such is not the case with roadblocks.” Consequently the Idaho Supreme Court determined that sobriety checkpoints violated Art. 1, § 17 of the Idaho Constitution which is not dissimilar to the 4th Amendment. The court held “where police lack express legislative authority, particularized suspicion of criminal wrongdoing and prior judicial approval, roadblocks established to apprehend drunk drivers cannot withstand constitutional scrutiny.” — Timber
"Patrons know that the breathalyzer test has distorted law enforcement. If one is stopped at a checkpoint and the meter hits .08, you are busted, regardless of how you are driving. Unsurprisingly, they take their business elsewhere. Until the breathalyzer law is repealed, things will only get worse. Let's punish people for real misbehavior (i.e. driving erratically or irrationally) rather than because they have a certain percentage of alcohol in their blood. Breathalyzer DWIs are easy busts and have has caused law enforcement to misallocate its resources. While half a dozen cops are sitting at a roadside checkpoint waiting to pop some poor schlemiel who is a few sips over .08, there are out-of-control drunks elsewhere on the roads endangering lives because no cops are there to see them." — highhatsize
"Why should anyone be allowed to drive after drinking? Are we supposed to feel badly because there were less drunks on the road? Wait till someone you love is killed or injured by someone driving after drinking. If these bars provided free transportation home for their customers then maybe they would have more customers." — Jim
"It's a double edged sword. We know that getting drunk drivers off the road is obviously important for everyone's sake and enforcement has become very severe in that endeavor. In some locales here, just getting into your car and putting your keys in the ignition can result in a police car pulling up and exercising their probable cause powers. This probable cause is prompted by your just stepping out of a restaurant or bar. So if that is going to be the case, even if you drink "responsibly" or not at all you sometimes feel its not worth the hassle to go out. Are cops waiting purposely outside of certain establishments? Of course. The DWI has become an industry. For local police departments its a major revenue generator especially since there is a lot of pressure to meet their quotas in order receive federal funds distributed by the county for their DWI arrests. So its not just about keeping the roads safe, its also about generating income. The restaurant and bar industry have to develop a model that is less dependent on the fat margins they have earned from alcohol sales to keep people coming out. In this current scenario, people will be going out less and less and when they do drinking to a minimum." — Jerry Can
"Why is it that everyone who is against this issue sees anyone who's had an adult beverage as a falling down drunk? Get real. This issue has too many flaws due to the fact it generates income to police, insurance, the company that makes those dumb machines to see if you're driving intoxicated that cause distractions on their own and have ruined the lives of many good, law abiding citizens. Ask those who've paid over and over just because they got caught... Not that they were intoxicated or driving recklessly, but hit the margine set by the federal government (who, BTW, forced states to abide and had MADD pushing the issue). And I know all you tea tottlers are already having minor strokes, but the fact is it's more about income and being able to have something quantitative to show than it is about quality on the roads. Good driving habits, respect for others, and most importantly, personal responsibility, be it in your driving habits, drinking habits or anything else you do that effects others.
I want to know how many people were inconvenienced in order to "catch" these drunks. There is no doubt these are police state tactics. Perhaps you'd be just as satisfied if they did door to door searches to see who's breaking other laws. And yes, it's that invasive. I don't want drunks on the road, but I do want there to be respect for our liberty and freedom. This subject comes close to infringing on those." — Walter Noller