On Friday, March 19, a police checkpoint in north LeFourche surveyed over 200 cars on La. 20 in Chackbay between 10 p.m. and 4a.m. according to a Daily Comet article. The checkpoint caught three DWI offenders and cited nine open-container violations.
Sobriety checkpoints are legal in the state of Louisiana. Many residents see being stopped momentarily by the police as a small inconvenience to endure in order to deter alcohol impaired driving. The state of Louisiana employs many aggressive drunk-driving policies. Louisiana requires an ignition interlock for all first time DWI offenders and has strict policies for parents and other persons contributing to the intoxication of minors.
Despite Louisiana’s tough policies when it comes to drunk driving, according to the National Center for Statistical Analysis, 37% of traffic fatalities in Louisiana were alcohol related in 2007.
While police checkpoints are effective in pulling drunk drivers off the road, a minority of states determined they were illegal. According to the Governor’s Highway Safety Association, eleven states do not conduct sobriety checkpoints because they are either considered illegal under state law or the state has ruled it does not have the authority to conduct them.
Texas is the only state that prohibits sobriety checkpoints because of a Constitutional issue. The Fourth Amendment guards against unreasonable search and seizures. A checkpoint where police can stop vehicles without probable cause is a violation of that right according to the Texas courts. While everyone feels it is important to stop drunk driving, some feel that other measures can be taken to stop drunk-driving that do not impede on their constitutional rights.
Some see police checkpoints as a way to not only combat drunk driving, but also bad driving in general. Aside from the DWI offenders and the open-container violations, the police checkpoint in LeFourche cited people for a number of other violations, such as improperly restraining a child and possession of marijuana. Others however fear that allowing police enforcement to have this type of authority will lead to possible abuse.
Although some states have deemed sobriety checkpoints illegal, law enforcement in Louisiana finds that they are a very effective tool in curbing drunk driving and will continue to use them. “There is no doubt there is a strong correlation between pulling drunk drivers off the road and saving lives,” Sheriff Craig Webre said in a news release. “We will continue aggressive efforts like the one last night and this morning to do whatever we can to protect the citizens of this parish.”
The one thing that people can do, whether checkpoints are legal in states or not, is remain responsible when drinking. Choosing to take a taxi or have a designated driver can not only prevent accidents but prevent serious legal issues from arising for those who chose to drive.