Some North Dakota lawmakers say sobriety checkpoints are a nuisance, and an invasion of privacy. They want to do away with them, saying there is a better way to catch drunk drivers than pulling people over by random. The republican sponsored bill would require police to have reasonable suspicion of a violation before pulling drivers over.
It happens like this: you're headed to a concert, you and a handful of others are pulled over, and have to prove you're not driving drunk. "The last thing we want to do is number one, have someone be injured or killed because of drunk driving. But, also we have to look at it from the standpoint that, the person that causes something like that has to live with it the rest of their lives," says Lt. Joel Vettel with the Fargo Police Department.
North Dakota has been recognized as the number one state in drunken driving fatalities. But, stopping people at random is just not effective according to Senator Tom Campbell, "99% of the people are innocent, and I think it's just a violation of rights, where people are going from point a to point b and they have to stop."
But Lt. Vettel says it’s worth it, "As far as inconvenience to a driver, it's moments, it really is."
"I think it's not necessary, and a lot of this is coming from my constituents who just don't like to be checked without reason," says Campbell. Which is why a Florida man made a Youtube video during a checkpoint. He's trying to send a message by driving through with a plastic bag hung it out his window. It says, “I remain silent. No searches. I want my lawyer.”
"The second you open your window they can say they smell alcohol coming from the vehicle, and the moment you speak a word they can say your speech is slurred," says the man in the video. In the video it appears the officers looked at his driver’s license, insurance, and then let him go.
Something Lt. Joel Vettel says happens, "We don't want to invade anyone's person privacy, we don't want to take and overstretch our bounds. That's not our intent, our intend is one of trying to make the roads as possible. And, we have had people do unique things when they have pulled up to check points and we know often they are trying to send a message whatever that message may be, and we respect that."
Vettel says it's up to the officer what to do in that situation, but checkpoints aren't invading privacy according to federal law. But, some in North Dakota are hoping to see some change.
North Dakota lawmakers are being asked to consider a bill that would get rid of sobriety checkpoints in North Dakota. If passed, law enforcement would be required to have reasonable suspension that a violation occurred before pulling someone over.
Some believe there are better ways of catching drunk drivers than using checkpoints.
Fargo Police say they use them to detour drunk driving. Adding, some studies indicate that regularly conducted sobriety checks reduce alcohol related fatality crashes by up to 24%.