MADD renews push for sobriety checkpoints
Similar efforts overthrown by legal challenges
SAN ANTONIO - Topping its wish list yet again, Jennifer Northway, executive director of Mothers Against Drunk Driving-South Texas, said the organization will renew its push for sobriety checkpoints when the Texas Legislature convenes next year.
Northway said she thinks this will be year they are adopted into law.
“I think the community is really seeing how much we are being impacted by drunk driving and the carnage is simply too much,” Northway said.
However, Jim Harrington, executive director of the Texas Civil Rights Project in Austin, said similar efforts already have been struck down in state and federal courts.
“We have this idea in Texas (where) you just pass a law and solve a problem,” Harrington said. “Making things more oppressive for everybody generally is not how we solve problems.”
Northway said planning how sobriety checkpoints would operate is vital to avoid concerns about racial profiling, “Whether they’re stopping every other vehicle or every fifth vehicle.”
She said first, drivers would be asked standard questions about where they’ve been and their destination.
“It’s not like every person that’s stopped has a standard field sobriety test as they’re going through the checkpoint,” Northway said.
But she also said officers would be looking for probable cause such as blood shot eyes, alcohol on their breath or in the vehicle.
Harrington said even still, checkpoints would open the door to “abuse and discretion by officers.”
“They can make all kinds of judgments whether they want to search your vehicle, your trunk, or going to racial profiling,” Harrington said.
Northway said she believes sobriety checkpoints would help saving lives.
“How can anybody oppose being for a safer Texas?” Northway asked. “The power is in deterrence.”
However, Harrington said educating the public, even from an early age, about the risks of drinking and driving would be a better option.
Harrington said he thinks sobriety checkpoints are “an unfortunate waste of time and money for the taxpayers ultimately.”
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