The Utah Legislature is mulling over House Bill 140, which would prohibit law enforcement from setting up DUI checkpoints across the state. Pressure from law enforcement agencies and interest groups may stifle that effort, but it's the correct move.
There's no evidence that law enforcement officers, stopping drivers without cause for random checks, saves lives. According to the National Transportation Safety Administration, there's no change in alcohol-related traffic deaths between states that have the checkpoints and states that do not. A far better -- and more constitutionally correct -- solution is to have law enforcement officers conduct more saturation patrols, which involves a heavy police presence on roads with officers specifically searching for drivers using a vehicle under the influence. According to Rep. David Butterfield, R-Logan, who shepherded HB140 through the Utah House Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Committee, saturation patrols are effective deterrences against drunken driving.
We have respect for law enforcement, that had representatives at the Legislature arguing to maintain the checkpoints. However, pulling over random motorists for DUI checks is not only a waste of time for the vast majority of drivers, it is also intrusive. It's a search that comes with no warrant and no suspicion attached. That rubs us the wrong way. As we have mentioned in these pages before, there has been a consistent increase in law enforcement excess, in all areas, in the past several years. We find it in a sinister trend and support efforts to roll back intrusive snooping on persons who should not be considered as suspicious, potential lawbreakers just because they choose to be outside.
Supporters argue that a judge has to approve a checkpoint in advance. Frankly, the fact that judges are approving these checkpoints is another reason the Legislature needs to step in. HB140 will not disallow all checkpoints. They would be retained for Amber Alerts, searches for fugitives or checks for invasive species.
Law-abiding families and individuals who go for a drive should not be inconvenienced by DUI checkpoints. It's that simple. We have those rights and we need to retain them.