Tuesday, November 06, 2007

The Atrocity at Home

You're driving down the highway, and, up ahead you see flashing red and blue lights. The traffic slows to a standstill, and you wait in line, wondering if there are prison escapees or other criminal fugitives in the area. When you finally get to the roadblock, a man with a badge and a gun approaches your window, and says "Show me your license and registration, please."
As you collect the required documents the "public safety" officer takes a visual look around inside your car, and you realize that it is you they are looking for.
What, you may wonder, is the reason for this detention and search? Where is the probable cause?
The government charges that the probable cause is that you are driving a car, and that you might, therefore, be driving while intoxicated, under the influence, or that you may be using or transporting illegal or illicit substances in the passenger compartment of your vehicle.
Of course, the government may find probable cause in everything you do. If you are walking down the street, you may be eluding arrest, because, if you have nothing to hide, why aren't you driving a car? If you are living by yourself, you could be a social deviant. If you are living and breathing, you might plotting to kill someone. There is plenty of probable cause, when the criteria are so vague.
In the states--all but eleven--that utilize these sobriety check points, the ratio of actual DWI offenders to innocent detainees is approximately less than one in 800, according to Barry Noreen of the Colorado Springs Gazette.
Noreen comments on the questionable constitutionality of sobriety check points:
In 1990, the Supreme Court ruled that sobriety checkpoints are constitutional, and that remains the law of the land, even though the Fourth Amendment supposedly protects citizens from being detained without probable cause.

Is it conceivable the high court could be wrong? Remember, a unanimous court once upheld the internment camps for Americans of Japanese ancestry. In Plessy v. Ferguson, it created the “separate-but-equal” justification for racial segregation.
Sure, the Supreme Court could be wrong again.

In 1990, the court defended checkpoints where the average delay for innocent citizens was 25 seconds. Today, the Colorado Springs Police Department’s Web site says three minutes is an acceptable guideline.

It’s hardly reassuring that the Bill of Rights will be suspended for just three minutes.

The return to the State harvested from the sobriety check points is too low to justify the cost in time and money. Law enforcement resources are being mishandled in manning these check points.
Wouldn't it be easier to catch DWI offenders by patrolling traffic and looking for such tell-tale signs as excessive weaving, erratic turns, speeding, excessively slow driving, or running stop lights or stop signs? Just because a person is in a car, doesn't mean that he or she is irresponsible for his or her actions, any more than living and breathing means that we could commit a crime.