HB 140: Improving DUI Enforcement

*This bill will be heard in the Law Enforcement/Criminal Justice committee today at 2pm in room 25 of the House Building.
The number of Iowa alcohol-related traffic fatalities from 2005-2009 represented the lowest five years on record despite the fact that Iowa doesn’t have so-called DUI checkpoints.(i)Rep. David Butterfield’s HB 140 would repeal the authorization of such checkpoints in Utah, and like Iowa, he doesn’t expect a glut of DUI-related problems.

By eliminating DUI checkpoints, more vehicles and officers will be put on random patrol, essentially saturating the roads with law enforcement. “It is proven that saturation efforts will bring more DUI arrests than sobriety checkpoints.”(ii)

But HB 140 has run into some stiff opposition. Layton Police Chief Terry Keefe, president of the Utah Chiefs of Police Association, even went so far as to say that the Legislature is, “taking away a tool law enforcement uses to reduce the incidence of driving under the influence, both alcohol and drugs.”

It’s true, the bill does take away a tool. An ineffective tool.

But forget that HB 140 would make more DUI arrests than the current check point system, what about safety?

Data from NHTSA suggests no correlation between states that practice checkpoints and safety (measured in alcohol-impaired fatality rates per 100M VMT).

When we rank the states from lowest rates to highest rates (using 2008 data), it is easy to conclude that checkpoints don’t 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.(iii)

But let’s ignore check points don’t make roads safer, what about the arrests DUI checkpoints make? Aren’t those worth it?

Checkpoints can be considered unreasonable searches. Unreasonable searches can be defined as warrantless and suspicion-less searches.

If a checkpoint is considered an unreasonable search, it’s also considered unconstitutional.

That makes prosecuting arrests made at checkpoints problematic. For example, a May 2010 checkpoint in South Salt Lake was ruled constitutionally infirm and charges had to be thrown out. Which means that rather than be convicted of a DUI, a drunk driver simply walked away.

Back to what HB 140 will do:

• HB140 eliminates inefficiency when it comes to DUI checkpoints.
• HB140 puts more officers on the road, resulting in a higher number of DUI arrests.
• HB140 is constitutional and protects the civil rights of Utahns.

(i) Governor’s Traffic Safety Bureau & Iowa Dept of Public Safety, “Alcohol Fact Sheet 2010.”

(ii)FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, “Battling DUI: A Comparative Analysis of Checkpoints and Saturation Patrols,” January 2003, Volume 73 Number 1

(iiI)Traffic Safety Facts, “Fatalities and Fatality Rates in Alcohol-Impaired-Driving Crashes by State, 2007-2008,” December 2009.

If you’re looking for more information on HB140 you can find the actual bill here.

and a message from Rep. Butterfield here.