Check out this news story from Tampa.
Tampa, Florida– With New Year’s Eve only days away, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration expects this to be one of the deadliest weeks of the year on the roads.
But now a new weapon is being used in the fight against drunk driving.
It’s a change that could make you more likely to be convicted.
“I think it’s a great deterrent for people,” said Linda Unfried, from Mother’s Against Drunk Driving in Hillsborough County.
Florida is among several states now holding what are called “no refusal” checkpoints.
It means if you refuse a breath test during a traffic stop, a judge is on site, and issues a warrant that allows police to perform a mandatory blood test.
It’s already being done in several counties, and now Unfried is working to bring it to the Tampa Bay area.
“I think you’ll see the difference because people will not drink and drive. I truly believe that,” she said.
Not everyone is on board, though.
DUI defense attorney Kevin Hayslett sees the mandatory blood test as a violation of constitutional rights.
“It’s a slippery slope and it’s got to stop somewhere,” Hayslett explained, “what other misdemeanor offense do we have in the United States where the government can forcefully put a needle into your arm?”
The federal government says Florida has among the highest rates of breathalyzer refusal.
“Now you’ve got attorneys telling their clients, don’t blow, don’t blow! Because we know from the results from these machines that they’re not operating as the state or the government says they’re supposed to operate,” said Stephen Daniels, a DUI consultant and expert witness.
Supporters, though, say you could see the “no refusal” checkpoints in the Bay area by October.
“We don’t want to violate people’s civil rights. That’s the last thing we want to do, but we’re here to save lives,” Unfried said.
She adds that this type of checkpoint would be heavily advertised, with the goal of deterring any drunk driving.
U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has recently said he wants to see more states hold similar programs.
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If you skimmed the article, here’s the gist of it: Tampa’s planning on setting up DUI checkpoints, and if you refuse to submit to a Breathalyzer test, there will be a judge right there at the roadblock to issue a warrant for the police to draw your blood right then and there.
This, to me, is a frightening scenario. Make no mistake, I think that drunk driving is a blight on society and that far too many innocent people are hurt, maimed or killed by drunk drivers, and that people who drive while intoxicated need to be removed from the road. However, the method that Tampa, and several other municipalities as it turns out, frightens me for two reasons.
The first reason I’m scared is because of the legal precedent that such action sets. Let us for a moment, examine the Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
According to the Constitution, the police cannot search one’s person or property without a warrant, and said warrant must be based on probable cause. Probable cause is defined by Ballentine’s Law Dictionary as “a reasonable amount of suspicion, supported by circumstances sufficiently strong to justify a prudent and cautious person’s belief that certain facts are probably true.” For a drunk-driving stop or checkpoint, probable cause would be that the subject is driving erratically, or has slurred speech, or fails a (voluntary) sobriety test. In over 200 years of case law, refusing to consent to a search has never before qualified as probable cause. Yet should a driver refuse to participate in the Breathalyzer test, a judge will – immediately, mind you – issue a warrant allowing the police to draw blood, thereby searching the driver’s person, simply because the driver refused to consent to the test.
Not only does this action flagrantly violate the 4th Amendment, it also allows simply refusing to consent to a voluntary search to become probable cause for the police to obtain a search warrant. And not only will it give the police probable cause for a warrant, but the police will no longer have to wait for a judge to issue them a warrant: the judge can be right there and give the police their warrant right away.
Think about this for a moment. You’re sitting down to dinner with your family when there comes a knock at the door. It’s the police. They tell you their investigating a crime, and ask if they can search your house for evidence. You politely decline after they inform you that said search would involve them virtually ransacking your home and close the door. A moment later, the police knock on the door again. They have a warrant to search the premises, based on the fact that you refused to voluntarily consent to their initial search request. They then proceed to virtually ransack your home, traumatizing your family and possibly damaging some of your possessions.
Am I the only one who thinks this sounds Orwellian?
This brings me to the second reason this story frightens me. Check out the quotation from Linda Unfried near the end of the story. “We don’t want to violate people’s civil rights. That’s the last thing we want to do, but we’re here to save lives.” Unfried and her supporters want you to surrender your civil rights in order to save lives, possibly your own. In other words, you need to surrender your rights for your own protection, for the greater good.
This scares me. A lot. In fact, the whole idea of doing something “for the greater good” bothers me. It bothers me a great deal, actually because, in my opinion, far too much harm has been done to innocent people in the name of some supposed “greater good.”
Take, for example, the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. Over 110,000 people were forcibly removed from their homes and relocated to hastilly erected prison camps that were equipped with neither electricity nor running water and forced to live there for over four years. Many had their property – their homes and businesses, their very livelihoods – either stolen or auctioned off by the government. Hundreds of thousands of lives were ruined, yet not one of these people had committed any crime. They were detained in conditions that even then would be described as unsanitary and inhuman, and their property was stripped from them, for “the greater good.”
Take also, for another example, the recent “Enhanced Screening Measures” being performed by the TSA at our nation’s airports. If you want to fly on an airplane today, you must either pass through a new type of X-ray machine that doctors warn could cause severe radiation damage or else be forced to submit to a “pat-down” that equates to sexual molestation, even though security experts around the world point out that such methods will not be successful in preventing another terrorist attack. Refuse to submit, or even attempt to leave the screening area, and you are immediately arrested, charged with obstruction, and fined $10,000. We are being forced to lay aside our rights, our dignity, and possibly even our health, all in the name of a supposed “greater good.”
I could go on for pages. There are hundreds, perhaps thousands of other examples throughout history of injustices or atrocities that were perpetuated in the name of “the greater good,” from the forced, warrant-less confiscation on firearms in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, which allowed looters and other criminals to run roughshod over law-abiding citizens without fear of resistance, to the Holocaust, slavery and the Jim Crow laws. I kid you not: look up the reasons people used to justify those. Untold numbers of lives have been destroyed, even lost, “for the greater good.”
Admittedly, no-refusal DUI checkpoints in Tampa might not seem like that big of a deal, but it not only presents a disturbing legal precedent, but rehashes an equally disturbing justification: “For the Greater Good.” Maybe it’s just me, but every time a policy is implemented “for the greater good,” it seems like far more people are harmed by it than are helped. Unfortunately, to me, this new policy and the precedent it sets looks like it may clear the path oppression and hardship… all in the name of “the greater good.”