Monthly Archives: September 2011

DUI Checkpoints

Checkpoints are a common method used by police to address drunk driving. While this approach is popular within MADD circles (see the MADD FAQ on sobriety checkpoints for their perspective), there are some concerns that you may not have heard.

First and foremost, checkpoints infringe on a basic constitutional right. Under the Fourth Amendment, we are supposed to be free from unreasonable search and seizures. The US Supreme Court addressed this in 1990 in the case of Michigan v. Sitz, ruling that checkpoints are permitted. The Court did not go into detail on what the limits are on such checkpoints.

Subsequent decisions have addressed those limits. In NY, cases like Muhammad F and People v. Abad are examples.

A second concern most don’t consider is the impact of these checkpoints on everyone. In that Michigan case, only 1% of stops led to arrests. That means stopping 100 people for every arrest. Those one hundred people endure flashlights shone in their eyes, and other police behavior that many find intimidating. And of the one percent arrested, there is no indication of how many were innocent.

I remember one checkpoint I encountered was unsafe. The police were on the backside of a hill on a freeway ramp (at the start of the I-87 Northway for traffic coming from Route 20 eastbound). As I was approaching the hill the car in front of me suddenly hit their brakes hard as they became aware of the checkpoint.

Drunk driving is dangerous. But the efforts to stop drunk driving have consequences too.

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MADD & Slate vs. ABI

There’s an interesting dispute brewing between MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) and the American Beverage Institute (ABI), and some minor media are jumping in.

The story starts with MADD getting a poor rating as a charity for its efficiency – that it spends a relatively low percentage of its money on programs. So then comes an ABI press release that MADD gets a D. Then we get an article in Slate on ABI and MADD, which criticizes ABI for bias.

You’d think we’d be done there, but then Paul Mulshine of the New Jersey Star Ledger jumped in. Mulshine criticizes Slate for assuming MADD is genuine and points out evidence that MADD manipulates DUI statistics.

Both the Slate and the Star Ledger articles have a number of comments. But in all, the discussion diverges from the key point: MADD did get a poor rating from an apparently neutral group that rates charities.

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