Here’s a hypothetical we submit to our readers across Colorado (acknowledging that, to some readers, something closely similar has likely happened to them alongside a state roadway).
Say that some element of criminality attaches to you. We’re not making value judgments here. For purposes of discussion, let’s just say that you’re in possession of an unlawful substance.
That’s it. Your driver’s license is fully in order. Your car is in tip-top shape. You’re a tremendous motorist who hasn’t come close to having an accident, well, ever. You are entirely lucid. You never drink and drive.
But then you run directly into a drunk driving sobriety checkpoint, which is permitted under state law.
The result: You are arrested and charged with a drug offense.
Would that bother you?
According to one writer and ex-police officer, it shouldn’t. He notes in an opinion piece focused on checkpoints recently written for a media publication that such stops usually result in “a comforting conversation” with a law enforcement official who cares about you.
Do you have a reaction to that?
Although some people might agree with the officer’s assessment, others might find his view more than a bit self-serving and disingenuous. Candidly, a checkpoint is not about making friends; rather, it is an enforcement tool that leads to arrests and criminal charges.
And, notably, it often leads to charges that have nothing to do with drunk driving and were not prefaced by an officer’s probable cause to stop a vehicle and conduct a search or seizure.
In other words, the argument can be made that law enforcement agencies effectively use sobriety checkpoints to make arrests while bypassing constitutional requirements.
And it seems hard to argue otherwise so long as such enforcement tools use the word “sobriety” to convey the intent and thrust of checkpoints.
If the goal is to identify and remove drunk drivers, how can completely unimpaired motorists be charged with criminal activity unrelated to drinking and driving that an officer did not remotely suspect prior to stopping them?
Checkpoints will always be open to criticism on that ground.