5 Reasons to Get Rid of DUI Checkpoints (No, Really)

If you’re out driving this Fourth of July holiday weekend, your odds of having to pass through a sobriety checkpoint are fairly good. Though they are purportedly established for “safety,” they’re actually pretty bogus.

No, this article is not an endorsement of drinking and driving, but there are plenty of legitimate reasons to do away with checkpoints. Hear me out:

1. They Aren’t Very Good at Catching Drunk Drivers

Stats are rarely well publicized for checkpoints since the numbers are far from impressive, but here are a few published by the press:

  • In 2007, fewer than 1% of the nearly 200,000 people subject to checkpoint stops in Pennsylvania were arrested.
  • In California in 2008, police stopped more than a million drivers at checkpoints and considered only 0.3% to be potentially intoxicated.
  • In a twelve-month period from 2010-11, West Virginia stopped 130,000 drivers yet made only 189 arrests from these operations. 97% of the state’s DUI arrests occurred outside of checkpoints.

2. They’re Expensive to Conduct

Oh, and did we mention that in addition to having a shoddy success rate, sobriety checkpoints generally cost about $10,000 a pop? That’s a lot of tax dollars, especially considering that roving officers are exponentially better at catching DUI offenders and cost the state only $300 a piece to put on the road each night.

The math simply doesn’t justify this type of approach. At least until you start factoring in the potential money the police can earn rather than what they’re spending.

3. They More Often Target Undocumented Immigrants

LA Weekly reports that checkpoints take in about $40 million in fines and seizures for California each year. Most of that money is not related to drunk driving charges, and surprise surprise, most of the money is generated from charges against undocumented immigrants without driver’s licenses. In 2009, California seized 24,000 vehicles at checkpoints yet made only 3,200 suspected DUI arrests.

All this raises the question: what are the police really after? If time after time, they’re getting the same results (i.e. arresting people without proper papers exponentially over impaired drivers), is it really fair to call it a sobriety checkpoint when they seem to be in the business of doing something else? It can’t be a coincidence that the majority of sobriety checkpoints are conducted in neighborhoods with large Latino populations.

4. They’re Just Another Excuse for Police to Exert Unnecessary and Unlawful Power

Last July 4, a Tennessee resident quietly filmed his stop at one of these checkpoints and made the mistake of demonstrating that he knew his rights. Suffice it to say, to contemporary police officers, knowing your rights is tantamount to criminal behavior.

The police do a bogus search of the detained (but never officially “detained” given the officer’s intentional lack of response) driver’s car. After discovering the whole stop was filmed, he was finally let go. Not once at the sobriety checkpoint was he questioned about drinking alcohol. For the record, of the 250 cars that passed through this checkpoint, only one was arrested on suspicion of DUI.

The checkpoint procedure is just another way of introducing the police state into our lives under the guise of “safety” while actually depriving us of our rights.

5. They’re Only Debatably Constitutional

Many argue that sobriety checkpoints contradict the Fourth Amendment’s promise to protect “against unreasonable searches and seizures.” Given that checkpoints uniformly stop everyone without justifiable cause and don’t monitor the cars for impaired driving before passing through, it could be labeled an “unreasonable” search.

In 1990, the Supreme Court ruled on this matter in Michigan Department of State Police v. Sitz. Six of the justices agreed that traffic checkpoints’ contributions to public safety made them reasonable. Of course, if the Court were able to look at some of the more recent statistics on the effectiveness of these stops, they might reconsider whether or not the minute success rate makes these searches reasonable after all.

Surely, there are better, more lawful approaches to get intoxicated drivers off the streets. Let’s stop being awful to our immigrant population and do away with sobriety checkpoints; in the meantime, please drive safely!


Jim Ven
Jim Ven1 years ago

thanks for the article.

Peggy A.
Peggy A2 years ago


Kelvin L.
Kelvin L.3 years ago

This is silly, just knowing a checkpoint exists makes me think twice about how much I've been drinking. It only takes one idiot to kill a family. Outside of that Tia T. makes some good points on the rest of your article.

Donna F.
Donna F3 years ago

as others said, we need checkpoints in bars, as well. but I see nothing wrong w/trying to stop DUI's.

Teresa W.
Teresa W3 years ago


Tia T.
Tia T3 years ago

who comes to live in this country as long as they do it legally and come here to be PRODUCTIVE, CONTRIBUTING members of society. Not to come here and wait for a handout.

Tia T.
Tia T3 years ago

I read this article again and had to laugh at the comment about $40 million was taken in from violations from undocumented illegal aliens. I really got a kick out of "Let’s stop being awful to our immigrant population and do away with sobriety checkpoints" REALLY? You have got to be kidding, right? Maybe the check points are in those areas because that is where they know there will be a concentration of violations! Why should legal Americans have to follow the law and pay taxes, insurance, etc. but the writer of this article thinks it is "awful" to make the illegal aliens pay when they break the law. I'm glad to know we are recouping some of our hard earned money we are having to pay out to these people in the form of public assistance and social security.
We have laws for a reason. I have a friend who had two identical twin sons who were traveling home from work one day only to be T-boned by a car full of Mexicans. One brother was killed on impact. Guess what? They were undocumented illegal aliens in an illegal car with no license to drive. Too bad they didn't catch them at a check point. If you could see the devestation and ruination of a family but someone who had no business being on the road you would see things differently. Perhaps rather than whining about check points and being "awful" to undocomented aliens, the writer should spend their time helping them learn the laws and becoming PRODUCTIVE, CONTRIBUTING members of society. I could give a rat's ass who come

Tia T.
Tia T3 years ago

Well said Barbara K.
I don't know where the $10,000 figure came from as a cost to set up a check point - certainly does not cost that much in most places. Anyway, even if it was $10,000 (I would have to see the proof) I would be willing to bet if you asked the parents or family of a loved one who was killed by a drunk driver if the cost of setting up a check point was justified they would say ABSOLUTELY even if it meant taking one drunk off the road. As far as all the other violations people are caught with at a check point, that's why its called a checCHECK POINT - checking for other things as well which makes it even more cost efficient - outstanding warrants, drugs, child safety issues, etc.

barbara Kepley
Barbara K3 years ago

I find it very amusing how some people want to handcuff the police until they are in need.
Then they want a cop to respond within 15 seconds and save their day.

Nils Anders Lunde
PlsNoMessage se3 years ago