DWI Checkpoints as the Roach Motel of Law Enforcement

Despite the best efforts of some legislators in Austin to whittle away at the protections of the Fourth Amendment, DWI roadblocks or sobriety checkpoints are still not legal in Texas.

But they are in Missouri, and Randy England notes an interesting tactic used there:

The police sometimes get clever in setting up such roadblocks. A sign on the highway will say “Sobriety checkpoint ahead - be prepared to stop.” The police then setup the roadblock–not on the highway–but at the next exit.

The idea is that drunk drivers will “select” themselves by taking the exit to avoid the roadblock. Like checking into a roach motel. Too late, the driver realizes, he put his head in the noose.

Of course, once the police have a car stopped and the window is rolled down, the party is over in the time it takes to smell the driver’s breath.

Well, I have to admit it’s clever.  And every 2 years when the legislature meets, it's more and more likely to be coming to us in Texas.

DWI Roadblocks to be Debated in Austin

From today’s Austin American Statesman:

Senate Bill 59, written by Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, gives police the authority to set up temporary sobriety checkpoints. The roadside barricades haven't been legal in Texas since 1994. A state court of appeals ruled them unconstitutional because the Legislature had not developed guidelines to ensure they were being conducted legally.

The bill would add (literally) a new chapter to the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure entitled “Sobriety Checkpoints”. This sort of legislation often sounds like a good idea at first…I mean, let’s get those drunks off the roads, right?

But make no mistake about though…this bill will authorize the police to stop vehicles without reasonable suspicion or probable cause.  Non legal mumbo-jumbo translation?... The cops will be able to stop you for any reason, or for no reason at all.

They will then be allowed, after the fact, to “develop” probable cause to believe that an offense has been committed.

Unfortunately, the US Supreme Court has long ago ruled that DWI roadblocks can be constitutional, but the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has so far not allowed them. This is truly a slippery slope folks…be careful what you wish for.  It's not to late to tell your representatives you oppose this.