Sobriety checkpoints are currently being debated quite a bit, and many states have already issued legislation either prohibiting or restricting how these DWI traffic stops are used. Although the specific legislation may vary from state to state — meaning that it’s always a good idea to double check if sobriety checkpoints are permitted in your state — here are a few basic points to know about them:
- Sobriety checkpoints began as a method of curbing the number of serious crashes connected to drunk driving incidents, and in many cases, these checkpoints are effective at reducing the number of severe injuries and fatal crashes. Even though sobriety checkpoints generally reduce drunk driving-related crashes by about 9%, many people don’t see this statistic to be a big enough benefit.
- The main argument against sobriety checkpoints is that the rights of drivers are violated, and drivers are subjected to unfair scrutiny, without giving law enforcement officials any reason for being skeptical. In all other cases, police officers must have a reason for pulling over a driver; they cannot simply pull over a driver and then decide to issue a traffic ticket. With sobriety checkpoints, on the other hand, police officers pull over drivers to assess them for driving under the influence of drugs/alcohol before having any suspicion that alcohol might be involved.
- Still, in states where sobriety checkpoints are considered to be a beneficial aspect of drunk driving laws, police officers must abide by certain restrictions and rules (which are intended to protect drivers). For example, checkpoints typically need to be announced publicly before officials set it up, there must be a reason for setting up a checkpoint at a particular location (e.g., there have been multiple DWI arrests or alcohol-related crashes there), and the officers on the scene must follow a pattern for pulling over cars that eliminates any chance of prejudice.
The legality of drunk driving checkpoints changes pretty often, and because traffic laws are determined on a state-by-state basis, it’s important to remember that a ruling in one state doesn’t necessarily apply to all states.