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Is it time for Louisiana to get rid of sobriety checkpoints?

Because Thanksgiving is coming up later this week, law enforcement agencies across Louisiana will be out in full force. Thanksgiving is one of the many holidays associated with a spike in drunk driving rates, and it is common for police to use all resources available to beef up DUI enforcement.

One enforcement method that will likely be in use this week is the sobriety checkpoint. Louisiana is one of 38 states allowing police to conduct checkpoints, which can really slow down traffic because police stop each and every vehicle coming through a given area. In addition to being called inconvenient, there are many other arguments against the use of sobriety checkpoints as well.

Before nearly every major holiday, readers of newspapers around the country are likely to come across an opinion piece written by a woman named Sarah Longwell. She is the managing director of the American Beverage Institute, a restaurant industry lobbying group. On behalf of her organization, Ms. Longwell has consistently argued against the continuation of sobriety checkpoints and called for increased “roving patrols” instead.

So what’s wrong with checkpoints? For one thing, they are not very effective. Longwell cites statistics from around the country showing that on a given night, only 1 to 2 percent of drivers who pass through a checkpoint get arrested for drunk or drugged driving. In one recent case, only five drivers were arrested out of 1,700 vehicles that passed through.

Checkpoints are also easy to avoid, because they are often advertised in advance and are easy to see from some distance away. They are also expensive, costing between $8,000 and $10,000 each.

The fact that they are both expensive and inefficient makes them difficult to justify. But on top of this, many critics believe that sobriety checkpoints serve more to inconvenience law-abiding drivers than they do to catch drunk drivers. If you know you’ll be driving through a checkpoint on the way home from dinner, for instance, you might avoid having the one beer or glass of wine you would otherwise have.

The alternative or supplement to checkpoints is roving patrols. This is simply more officers out patrolling the streets and conducting traffic stops based on observed behaviors or infractions.

Ms. Longwell’s opinion pieces may serve her industry agenda, but she nonetheless makes good points. Perhaps it’s time for Louisiana to consider doing away with sobriety checkpoints.

Source: Al.com, “Ditch sobriety checkpoints this Thanksgiving, use roving patrols instead: guest opinion,” Sarah Longwell, Nov. 25, 2014

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Meet Attorney Guillory

Attorney Joshua S. Guillory was born in Alexandria, Louisiana. Upon graduating high school from Alexandria Senior High, he enrolled in classes at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette where he earned his Bachelor of Science degree. Josh was a member of Mu Kappa Tau, a national honor society for marketing majors, while attending... Read More

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