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Should Michigan have drunk driving checkpoints?

Michigan residents may have noticed increased police patrols out over the Thanksgiving holiday. Police departments tend to ramp up traffic and DUI patrols over the holidays, as these can be very dangerous times on U.S. roadways.

However, here in Michigan we do not have DUI checkpoints, unlike many other states, and some residents might be wondering about the reason for this. Shouldn't we have checkpoints in order to prevent drunk driving accidents?

DUI checkpoints are locations where law enforcement officers are stationed to check drivers for intoxication and impairment. In some states, including Michigan, this is against the state constitution because police need to have a reasonable suspicion in order to halt and investigate drivers.

In fact, in 1990 the U.S. Supreme Court found that DUI checkpoints violate the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which protects citizens from unreasonable search and seizure. Nonetheless, the court also found that the constitutional infringement is somewhat necessary because the dangers that drunk drivers pose to the public are so severe. So, in somewhat of a constitutional compromise, the court issued guidelines for checkpoints, including one that states the checkpoints must be publicized in advance.

Michigan, however, remains among 11 states that have bans on sobriety checkpoints. Law enforcement agencies in other states do use checkpoints to take drunk drivers off of the roads before they cause injuries or death in car accidents, but they aggressively publicize the locations of the checkpoints beforehand.

Law enforcement officers have said the publicity about the checkpoints is a big help in itself, deterring people from driving drunk in the first place.

Source: Valley Independent Sentinel, "Why Do Police Announce DUI checkpoints?" Ethan Fry, Nov. 20, 2012

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