While waiting to be seated for breakfast this morning at a local restaurant, I overheard a man explaining to one of the waitresses that a friend of his had been stopped at a DUI Sobriety Checkpoint in the State of California last evening. The man's friend, intelligently, had agreed to be the designated driver and, apparently, waited for close to 30 minutes before being hassled by California State Patrol, who weren't convinced the man was sober (despite not having consumed any alcohol).
DUI Sobriety Checkpoints are ILLEGAL/Unconstitutional in Washington State, as our state's highest court unquestionably concluded that the use of roadblocks violated Article I, Section VII of our State Constitution along with the 4th amendment of the US Constitution. State v. Mesiani, 110 Wn. 2d 454 (1988). In total, 11 other states currently prohibit the use of sobriety checkpoints.
The questions are obvious: Should we have Sobriety Checkpoints in Washington State? Would they be an effective tool in reducing traffic fatalities and injuries? Further, would such be yet another example of the eroding of our constitutional right to be free from unwarranted search & seizures?
It goes without saying that the existence of DUI Roadblocks would result in many people being discouraged from drinking and driving. However, would the people discouraged from such have been likely to drink & drive in the first place? Surprisingly, the effectiveness of Sobriety Roadblocks has not been extensively researched in any type of unbiased manner.
There are a number of reasons to believe that Sobriety Checkpoints are ineffective in reducing traffic fatalities and injuries. Such include, but are not limited to: (1) Drivers being able to avoid locations where roadblocks are likely to appear (i.e. areas of greater DUI arrests/fatalities); (2) Law enforcement officers being taken off the roads, where they currently spend the entirety of their time patrolling for possible DUI drivers; (3) The cost/time associated with implementing & constructing roadblocks, and the effect the transferring of these resources has on successful routine DUI patrols.
Driving while under the influence is one of the most dangerous things we can do. While limiting the number of people affected by such behavior is of great importance, this cannot come at the expense of the trampling of our Constitutional rights. Furthermore, the actual effectiveness, or lack thereof, of Sobriety Checkpoints needs to assessed before any change in Washington State law is considered. Fortunately, our state's lawmakers, atleast for the time being, appear to have used logic before attempting to implement yet another costly and ineffective law aimed at reducing the number of impaired drivers on the road.
If you or someone you know has been arrested for DUI in Washington State, contact Veitch Ault & Associates immediately (425-452-1600) to make sure one is given the best chance to defend themselves.