Have we Arizonans allowed our fears to overcome our freedoms? Could some law enforcement efforts do more harm than good?
The 4th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution upholds the right of the people to be secure against unreasonable searches and seizures (NOLO, 2011). In 1990, the U.S. Supreme Court (Michigan Dept. of State Police v. Sitz) said DUI checkpoints with state guidelines did not violate the 4thAmendment – and benefits from DUI checkpoints outweigh minor intrusions on individual rights. Dissenting Justice Stevens said findings “indicate that the net effect of sobriety checkpoints on traffic safety is infinitesimal and possibly negative.” Stevens argued, “even if roadblocks were effective, the fact that they work wouldn’t justify violating individuals’ constitutional rights”. Justice Brennan added, “…to prevent drunken driving …is an insufficient justification for abandoning the requirement of individualized suspicion”(ORR, 2010.
Currently, eleven states prohibit the use of DUI checkpoints.
Arizonans must decide whether DUI checkpoints stopping hundreds of people are “minor intrusions”. According to the Arizona Daily Star, on December 12th, 2010, “The Southern Arizona DUI Task Force, consisting of officers from 12 law-enforcement agencies, made 45 DUI arrests during a weekend deployment. Of the 45 arrests, seven were of drivers with a blood-alcohol content higher than 0.15 (the legal limit in Arizona is 0.08); two were for felony DUI; and 43 for misdemeanor DUI… Task force officers conducted 377 stops and issued a total of 247 non-DUI citations (my emphasis) …nine for underage drinking, 12 for seatbelt violations and two for child-restraint violations.” (Norman, 2010)
Of 377 stops, 247 non-DUI citations sounds suspiciously like harassment for money. In my opinion, the 4thAmendment prohibits police from indiscriminate stop and search roadblocks. In the world of criminal law, the 4thAmendment means police may only conduct a search of your home, trash, office or car if they have a warrant – or probable cause to believe they will find evidence you have committed a crime. There is absolutely no probable cause for police to suspect evidence of crimes in indiscriminate roadblocks with involuntary detention, questions and searches.
Police mean well, but how much freedom is our society willing to give up? In these times of budget cuts could the many officers on DUI checkpoints from “12 Law Enforcement Agencies” be better used? Those citizens concerned about their 4thAmendment right to be secure against unreasonable searches (without any probable cause at all) should ask our state and local governments about DUI checkpoints.
NOLO (2011). Law for all, Understanding search and seizure law.
Norman, C. (2010). Arizona Daily Star. December 13, 2010 at 12:00 am
ORR Law, (2010). DUI Sobriety Checkpoints.