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Sobriety checkpoints: a waste of time and money

Law Enforcement across the state of Colorado continue their crack down on drunk driving by setting up a series of sobriety checkpoints. Those random checkpoints generally require countless officers over several hours and usually yield very few DUI arrests. So, are sobriety checkpoints really the most efficient way to prevent drunk driving?

Chipping Away at Liberty

Despite valid legal arguments that sobriety checkpoints are a violation of a person’s Fourth Amendment constitutional right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures, both state and federal courts have upheld the practice.

In 1990, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the compelling public interest in reducing drunk driving fatalities outweighs a checkpoint’s intrusion on an individual’s liberty. The Colorado Supreme Court has also given checkpoints its blessing.

Low Yields

Unfortunately, sobriety checkpoints are inefficient at nabbing the truly dangerous drunk drivers. Checkpoints are usually highly publicized ahead of time, which means drivers can turn around before reaching them. Furthermore, most officers do not stop every car at a checkpoint.

Only a very small percentage of people driving under the influence in Colorado are actually caught. For example, Colorado Springs police stopped 1,420 drivers at one checkpoint in September 2011. Of those, only eight (0.56 percent) were cited for driving under the influence.

Most experts agree that saturated police patrolling is a more effective means of finding and stopping drunk drivers. Data released by the American Beverage Institute in 2007 showed that states using roving police patrols have an average of seven percent fewer alcohol-related deaths than states using sobriety checkpoints. However, roving patrols do not generate the same amount of police publicity as checkpoints and do not result in overtime pay for officers.

No one would disagree that drunk driving kills innocent people and law enforcement play a critical role in deterring and stopping it. However, sobriety checkpoints are not the answer. Not only do they invade people’s privacy and liberty, but they are a highly ineffective use of police resources.

If you have been stopped at a sobriety checkpoint and now face drunk driving charges, turn to an experienced Colorado DUI defense attorney to protect your rights.