Checkpoints: More MADDness we can’t afford

As regular as clockwork, with the beginning of a new legislative session in Texas, we see the introduction of yet another “sobriety” checkpoint bill (HB439, introduced by Rep. Todd Smith, R-Euless).

And, as always, the usual people come out of the woodwork in support of it:

Sobriety checkpoints: Checkpoints such as those used in 38 other states have been illegal in Texas since 1994, when the courts ruled that they were unconstitutional because there were no uniform guidelines. Legislators have tried for years to reinstate them.

“In 2008, Texas led the nation in DWI fatality deaths,” Irving Police Chief Larry Boyd said. “That is a focus for us … to stop that kind of carnage on our roadways and our highways and to really get serious about this issue of driving while intoxicated and DWI fatalities.”

The Senate approved a bill in 2009, but it didn’t reach the House floor.

Rep. Todd Smith, R-Euless, has filed a bill to let the Texas Department of Public Safety set up checkpoints in counties where more than 250,000 live.

Read more:

I wrote a fairly lengthy post on the constitutionality and effectiveness of checkpoints in late 2008 relating to SB 298, which was filed for the 2009 session.

Ultimately, aside from being an infringement on the rights of law-abiding citizens, checkpoints commit the cardinal sin of being ineffective at their supposed purpose: catching drunk drivers.  Even the proponents of checkpoints admit that their effectiveness is limited, but that they serve instead as a warning that drunk drivers will be caught (Behold the awesome power of the state, peon!).

So what really works?  Putting police on the street looking for drunk drivers. Amazing!  Good, old fashioned, police work beats sending a message.  From the conclusion of my 2008 post:

This style of policing keeps our officers out on the streets where they can observe other activities and help prevent other types of crime at the same time.  Further, it helps target the worst offenders, the habitual drunks, who will drive drunk regardless of what the law says.  Finally, it respects individual rights by only stopping people when there is some reasonable suspicion that the individual may be impaired.

Checkpoints do just the opposite.  They tie up police resources at a well-known stationary position, allowing drunk drivers to avoid them and giving other criminals more chances to attempt crimes in the absence of the regular police presence.  Further, they corrode respect of the police by the average innocent citizen who is caught up in them.

Let’s continue to respect the freedom of our citizens here in Texas by saying “No!” to any attempts to enable checkpoints in our state.  Our resources can be better used by aggressively pursuing criminal drunk drivers rather than sitting around waiting for them to come to us.

It’s unfortunate that we have to fight this nonsense every legislative session, but the price of freedom is eternal vigilance. Let’s all remember to just say NO to checkpoints and YES to liberty.


  1. Phelps says:

    There’s another aspect to it, though. Since MADD convinced the legislature to drop the BAC limit to .08, they haven’t been able to catch anyone at that level. Why? Because drivers aren’t impaired enough for officers to notice at that BAC level. So what is the only way to catch them? Stop them at a checkpoint, and give someone a (horribly unreliable) Breathalyzer test if they say they’ve had one drink, and hope you see .08 on the meter, because it won’t show up in their driving or on a(n honest) field sobriety test.

  2. I hadn’t considered that angle, although I suspect there have to have been some stops for bad driving with people at 0.08. Or perhaps 0.08 is hard to differentiate from the average driver yakking on a cell phone or putting on makeup? 🙂

    The ones who seem to cause the most carnage are the flat-out-stinking-drunk types, who tend to blow 0.10 or (much, much) higher. So, like you, I’m not convinced that 0.08 is worth the trouble of criminalizing that second glass of wine (or whatever it comes out to).