An organization of law enforcement officials has made their legislative wish-list. The North Texas Crime Commission got together last week to discuss recommendations in the world of law enforcement and crime control. Among their wishes—a return to sobriety check points.
Sobriety check points have been banned in Texas since 1994, at least in part because of the inconvenience they cause to everyone but drunk drivers. One source, however, states Texas’ interpretation of the US Constitution deemed sobriety check points illegal, and this argument holds some merit.
Under the federal Constitution, we are protected against unreasonable searches and seizures. An officer must have a good reason to pull you over. This reason, also referred to as probable cause, is also necessary to conduct a search or seizure without a warrant.
Opponents of many drunk driving laws state law allowing these DWI checkpoints & roadblocks turn due process on its head, assuming you’re guilty rather than “innocent until proven guilty.” After all, drunk driving charges are one of the few instances where you can face penalties before you even go to court.
But, advocates of sobriety check points would like to see these ineffective and inconvenient headaches back in practice in Texas. Sure they say it’s because they want safer roadways but check points like these result in more tickets for seatbelt violations and similar trivial matters than they do apprehend drunk drivers. Police are more likely to catch a drunk driver by watching such drivers for erratic behavior behind the wheel.
What these sobriety check points do provide local governments with is a little bit of revenue (in the form of tickets) and huge expenses (in officer overtime).
Some argue the roadblocks are actually counterproductive because they take officers away from their routine duty, requiring them to stand on the side of the road with their colleagues.
The North Texas Crime Commission would also like to see bans on synthetic drugs like Spice and K2, as well as stiffer penalties for car burglaries. Currently, the first two convictions of car burglary are considered misdemeanors.
Secondary to these three priorities for the Commission are things like separate charges for ATM thefts, identification requirements for prepaid cell phones, and requiring DNA swabs for every arrest classified as a Class B misdemeanor or more serious.
There are really no surprises on this list of recommendation. The law enforcement community asks for stricter criminal laws and sanctions with broader powers to enforce the laws. Typically, if passed, related legislation is at least slightly softened by the legislators.