Freedom of Travel Is So 1988


In 1988 the Washington Supreme Court ruled that "sobriety checkpoints" violate a provision of the state constitution that says "no person shall be disturbed in his private affairs, or his home invaded, without authority of law." Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire wants to give them a try anyway, arguing that they might pass muster if they're authorized by a statute that requires Superior Court warrants for specific locations and times. Gregoire also suggests that the unpleasantness of a constitutional challenge could be avoided if Washingtonians would only learn to cooperate with the authorities:

Gregoire on Monday called upon residents to be "team" players in the state's fight to save lives by accepting the proposed incursion on their driving rights, comparing the traffic stops to security checks at airports and courthouses.

"The fact of the matter is it's a different day than it was 20 years ago," she said at a news conference at Lynnwood's Meadowdale High School, where the checkpoint procedures were demonstrated. "It is literally a partnership with every single citizen to make sure our roadways are safe." 

In 1990 the U.S. Supreme Court said stopping motorists at random just to make sure they aren't intoxicated is consistent with the Fourth Amendment's guarantee against "unreasonable searches and seizures" (although police at a checkpoint still need some indication of drunkenness to demand that a driver undergo a breath test). According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving, which loves this sort of suspicionless traffic stop, 39 states have them. Gregoire should be proud to be in the minority. Instead she's embarrassed that her state clings to the unfashionable idea that police should not stop and detain people for no particular reason. 

[Thanks to Ronald Skinner for the tip.]