Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Probable cause? Who needs probable cause?

Yesterday the State of Texas came one step closer to ending a 15-year old ban on DWI checkpoints with the passage of S.B. 298 which would add Chapter 65 to the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure creating DWI checkpoints in the 15 most populous counties in the state.

The bill would allow law enforcement agencies to set up temporary DWI checkpoints in counties with a population over 250,000 or in municipalities with populations of more than 500,000. The checkpoints could not be set up on limited-access highways, overpasses, bridges or causeways, or single entry or exit points from a designated area.

According to the sponsor, Sen. John Carona (R-Dallas): "The goal is not to apprehend people. The goal is to deter people."

And I'm certain that anyone stopped at one of these checkpoints who the police deem to be intoxicated will be allowed to leave with unimpaired driver or will be allowed to remain at the checkpoint until they sober up.

Of course the goal is to apprehend more citizens the police think are driving while intoxicated. I wrote before about the amount of money at stake in the DWI sweepstakes. But, in order to pass constitutional muster, the sponsors of the legislation cannot give the true purpose of the bill -- the bill only passes the sniff test if there is a public safety purpose behind the checkpoints.

Now, based on the restrictions placed in the version of the bill that passed the State Senate, the proposed checkpoints could not be set up in places such as South Padre Island, Mustang Island, Galveston, College Station, Lubbock, Waco and San Marcos. The checkpoints could be set up in Houston, Dallas, Fort Worth and San Antonio. 

The purpose is to deter conduct, yet no checkpoints can be set up in areas that make their money on Spring Breakers and vacationers or in areas in which a university is the largest institution. Talk about things that make you say "hmmmm."

Let's not kid ourselves, the real purpose of the proposed DWI checkpoints is to increase the number of DWI arrests in and around the state's major cities, to increase the amount of federal grant money local law enforcement agencies receive for DWI enforcement and to line the coffers of the DPS with more surcharge money.

With the creation of these DWI checkpoints, the police will no longer have to worry about pesky little things such as reasonable suspicion or probable cause - and don't be surprised when law enforcement begins parking trailers for blood tests at those sites. 

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