Utah House Passes Bill To Ban Sobriety Checkpoints


Good news on the checkpoint front.

Utah’s House of Representatives passed a bill on February 23rd that would effectively ban license and sobriety checkpoints in the state. If passed by Utah’s Senate and signed into law, Utah will become the 12th state in the Union to ban such suspicionless seizures of individuals inside a state’s boundaries.

The bad news is that it doesn’t look like the bill has much traction in the Senate where politicians tend to be more beholden to such influential forces as police unions and corporations like MADD that receive large grant blocks from the feds to push suspicioneless checkpoints at the local level. Indeed, it sounds like the powers that be in the State Senate are purposefully preventing the bill from seeing the light of day which probably means it wont go anywhere this session.

Even though the bill is probably DOA in the Senate, what’s encouraging about the situation is that not only did a state legislative body introduce such a bill in the first place but actually passed it. To that end, Utah Representative David Butterfield deserves the thanks, praise & encouragement of all liberty loving people in Utah for being the primary sponsor of the bill and pushing it successfully forward through the House. These same folks should get on the horn with their State Senate reps and tell them in no uncertain terms to get behind the bill and see it through the Senate. If not for this legislative session then the next…or however many it takes.

As I’ve pointed out in my own articles on the ineffectiveness of sobriety checkpoints over the years (see):

Representative Butterfield does a good job in his article debunking the junk science used to justify these 4th amendment violations:

“Data from NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) suggests no correlation between states that practice checkpoints and safety (measured in alcohol-impaired fatality rates per 100M VMT). In fact, 2007 and 2008 rates for non-checkpoint states (.410 and .400 respectively) were better than rates in checkpoint states (.471 and .424 respectively). In 2008 rates for both checkpoint and non-checkpoint states dropped, though the rate for checkpoint states dropped more than for non-checkpoint states. When we rank the states (including D.C. and Puerto Rico) from lowest rates to highest rates (using 2008 data), it is easy to conclude that checkpoints don¬ít seem to be an important variable. For 2008 data, non-checkpoint states rank 5th, 10th, 12th, 16th, 18th, 23rd, 28th, 31st, 40th, 44th, and 49th. Six of the eleven non-checkpoint states rank in the upper half while five rank in the lowest half[iv]

The number of Iowa alcohol-related traffic fatalities in 2005 through 2009 represents the lowest five years on record (Iowa Dept of Public Safety 2010). Iowa is a non-checkpoint state.[v]”

We need to see more bills like this in states that allow the police to randomly seize & investigate individuals absent any reason to believe they’ve done something wrong. If any readers have some suggestions to that end to share, please do so.

Related articles on the recent action in Utah’s House of Representatives can be found at:

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