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Ban Intrusive DWI Checkpoints…

The Virginia Star (The new electronic newspaper founded by John Fredericks) is reporting the return of DWI checkpoints (emphasis added):

Virginia law enforcement agencies have increased Driving Under the Influence (DUI) enforcement efforts as part of the 19th annual Checkpoint Strikeforce Campaign.

The campaign began Wednesday, and will last until Labor Day. It will be resumed periodically during specific holidays. The state and its partners are using a combination of ad campaigns, advance notification, increased patrols, and physical checkpoints to deter drunk driving.

Geller noted that the state police will partner with local agencies to operate check points. “From an education aspect, state police will be promoting key campaign messaging through traditional and social media channels, and in public safety outreach and presentations,” Geller said.

These checkpoints are intrusive (you are stopped without warning at a set point decided by law enforcement) and they entrench upon the principle that stops by law enforcement ought to have a legally defensible reason – either probable cause or at least reasonable suspicion. The article cites political activist Paul Goldman:

Constitutional lawyer Paul Goldman is concerned about the legality of DUI checkpoints. Officers need to establish probable cause before they stop individual drivers. Goldman said the same reasoning should apply at DUI checkpoints.

“They could not just stop you and pull you over and ask you to take a breathalyzer test. I don’t believe that’s constitutional,” Goldman said.


“So on the one hand, yeah. Getting drunk drivers off the road, telling people, ‘Hey, you shouldn’t be driving, you’re impaired,’ that’s a good thing. But doing it in a constitutional way, that could be a difficult thing. So how do you combine a good thing with a difficult thing? Well, it seems to me you have to err on the side of the Constitution.”

Alas the courts have under certain limited circumstances allowed checkpoints. But they ought to be outlawed.

I do not object to strict enforcement of DWI laws. Emphasis can be made on high-risk areas and situations. But checkpoints are too close to a “show me your papers” regime. Criminal justice reformers ought to intervene. Ban the checkpoint.

About Elwood Sanders

Elwood "Sandy" Sanders is a Hanover attorney who is an Appellate Procedure Consultant for Lantagne Legal Printing and has written ten scholarly legal articles. Sandy was also Virginia's first Appellate Defender and also helped bring curling in VA! (None of these titles imply any endorsement of Sanders’ views)

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Tom White Says:

Nothing is more conservative than a republican wanting to get their majority back. And nothing is more liberal than a republican WITH a majority.

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