Lawmakers Consider a New Solution to Texas’ DWI Problem

Posted By The Carlson Law Firm || 20-Sep-2012

Texas state lawmakers are looking to repeal a 16-year-old ruling on the use of a controversial preventative measure against drunk driving fatalities: sobriety checkpoints.

Sobriety checkpoints-used in 39 states-are temporary points on a roadway that stop motorists, give them a breathalyzer test, and if they pass, let them on their way. Not all cars on the road are stopped. Typically, law enforcement pulls over every other car or every third car. Supporters of sobriety checkpoints claim that the stops are a deterrent to drivers that may otherwise get behind the wheel after having a few drinks.

The U.S. Supreme Court upheld sobriety checkpoints as constitutional in 1990, and most states do not consider them an example of illegal search and seizure. Under current Texas law, however, such checkpoints have been banned since 1994.

Some Texas lawmakers are trying to change the state’s position on sobriety checkpoints and make them legal in largely populated areas. John Carona (R-Dallas) authored a bill that passed in the Senate last year, but was never voted on in the house. The bill would allow cities with a population of more than 500,000, and counties with a population greater than 250,000, to use sobriety checkpoints to prevent drunk driving.

Drunk Driving in Texas

Texas has the highest alcohol-related fatality rate in the country. Out of 3,382 traffic fatalities in 2008, 43 percent were alcohol-related. In 38 percent of those fatalities, a driver had a blood alcohol concentration that was greater than the .08 legal limit.

Supporters of checkpoints say they may reduce alcohol-related fatalities by 20 percent.

The legality of sobriety checkpoints will have to be debated in the state’s legislature before any checkpoints can be implemented in Texas. Some lawmakers are concerned that such checkpoints would subject thousands of innocent drivers to unwarranted stops. Sobriety checkpoints do, however, have the potential of significantly reducing drunk driving accidents, a statistic that Texas must get under control.

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