Would Sobriety Checkpoints in Rhode Island Result in Fewer Drunk Driving Accidents?

Car Accident

Legal Help for Victims of Drunk Drivers in Massachusetts and Rhode Island

More than 10,000 Americans die each year in alcohol-impaired driving crashes. That’s more than one person per hour. Police officers in 38 states and the District of Columbia utilize sobriety checkpoints to one degree or another in an attempt to identify and arrest drunk drivers. Rhode Island is not one of those states. Are sobriety checkpoints effective in reducing the number of alcohol-related crashes? Some experts argue that it depends upon what one means by “effective.”

Sobriety Checkpoints: What Are They?

Generally speaking, sobriety checkpoints are roadblocks set up at pre-determined (and publicized) locations, where police officers either stop every vehicle or stop vehicles at some regular interval – for example, every sixth vehicle. The officer typically asks the driver a few questions and, if the officer suspects that the driver may have been drinking, the officer asks the driver to take a sobriety test.

Are Checkpoints Effective?

According to data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), sobriety checkpoints reduce alcohol-related fatal, injury, and property damage crashes each by about 20 percent. Other studies have shown the effectiveness to be a bit less, but virtually all studies show a reduction of at least 15 percent. Most studies show that the reduction is greater in urban areas than in rural parts of the country.

Are Checkpoints Truly Cost-Effective?

With such widespread agreement that sobriety checkpoints reduce alcohol-related crashes, state-run sobriety checkpoint programs would seem to be a “no-brainer.” Yet some law enforcement experts disagree. They acknowledge that the overall number of drunk drivers may be reduced, but they also argue that the programs are not cost-effective.

Indeed, while 38 states allow them, only 13 conduct them on a weekly basis, citing their prohibitive cost. In some states, a checkpoint requires a dozen officers. Law enforcement officials contend better results occur by spreading those officers out on the highway. Several states have begun to operate checkpoints with as few as three officers. Data shows that these checkpoints are quite cost-effective.

Rhode Island Does Not Utilize Sobriety Checkpoints

Some critics of checkpoints argue that they represent unlawful search and seizure by authorities – a violation of our rights under the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The United States Supreme Court has held otherwise, though states are free to provide additional protections under their own constitutions. Our Rhode Island Supreme Court, in Pimental v. Department of Transp., 561 A.2d 1348 (R.I. 1989), found such additional protections under the Rhode Island Constitution, ruling that sobriety checkpoints violate Rhode Islanders’ constitutional rights to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. Without probable cause or reasonable suspicion, roadblocks or checkpoints in Rhode Island are illegal.  The Court acknowledged that these tests might be minimally intrusive and effective in combatting the societal problem of drunk driving, but emphasized that Rhode Island’s founders valued freedom and liberty above all other interests of society.

Have You Been in a Motor Vehicle Accident?

Whether checkpoints are allowed or not, there are still too many drunk drivers on the roads. They cause far too many serious accidents.

Have you or a loved one been injured in an auto accident? If so, you deserve skillful, energetic, and experienced attorneys to help you prepare your case. The injury lawyers at Bottaro Law Firm have the resources to investigate the accident and fight to protect your legal rights. We will pursue your case at no cost until we win. Remember that delay can harm your case. Our experienced legal team is available 24/7 for a free consultation. Give us a call at 866-529-9700, or complete our convenient online contact form.