Daniel Hynes

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N.H. bill seeks to end sobriety checkpoints

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For different reasons, a bill doing away with sobriety checkpoints in New Hampshire has the backing of both constitutionally minded lawmakers and a D.C. trade group representing alcohol-serving restaurants.

House Bill 1452 would eliminate the sobriety checkpoints organized by local police departments to catch drunken drivers."

"My concern is we're giving up our right to travel freely," said Republican Rep. George Lambert of Litchfield, a co-sponsor of the bill. "It allows (the police) to do all kinds of investigations for which they did not have original probable cause."

Lambert and Rep. Seth Cohn of Canterbury, also a freshman Republican, see the checkpoints as running counter to the Fourth Amendment's barring of unreasonable search and seizures. Cohn said the checkpoints give law enforcement "carte blanche to stop people ostensibly for sobriety."

"I'm absolutely against people driving while intoxicated," Cohn said. "This is a road toward a police state.""

"Allenstown police Chief Shaun Mulholland, who organizes checkpoints in the Concord area and trains officers on how to administer them, said the checkpoints have been effective, along with other measures, at reducing alcohol-related crashes here and in other states. They are more effective than roving patrols because of their deterrence factor, he said. Drivers may read in the paper that a checkpoint is happening in town on a certain weekend, but they don't know the exact location or the date and time, he said."

However, in my experience in looking at the data afterward, some checkpoints have less than 1% of the drivers who are arrested for DWI. That does not seem very effective. Further, a certain police department I wont mention, thinks the sobriety checkpoints are the most effective way to detect/combat dwi. Sounds to me like their officers might need some better training if they think a driver who has done nothing wrong is likely more impaired than a driver swerving all of the road.

If you have been charged with dwi resulting from a sobriety checkpoint, an experienced DWI lawyer may be able to show the stop was invalid, and have the case dismissed. Even if the stop was valid, the officer likely did not observe erratic driving, which can help show you were not impaired by alcohol. Finally, some judges will hold it is not unlawful to turn around and avoid a sobriety checkpoint.

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Guest Wednesday, 12 May 2021