Friday, January 8, 2010

The DUI Exception to the Constitution

If you are pulled over for a suspected DUI, your Constitutional rights no longer apply.

I would like you to imagine for a moment that you’ve gone to a friend’s house for dinner. In the course of a very good dinner you’ve had a couple of glasses of a good Merlot and it is now time to drive home. I would like you to imagine that you are on your way home–and, I will tell you, by the way, that two glasses of wine will not, in any state, put you under the influence of alcohol or over the legal limit of .08. As you are driving along the highway, you see ahead of you some flashing lights and barricades and police cars accordioned across the highway, with flashing lights directing you into an increasingly small channel. And, as you go in, you are stopped and two police officers approach you and stick a flashlight in your face and say, "Breath on me. Have you been drinking tonight? Please step out of the car."

Some of you say, "Well, that can’t happen in the United States. We have the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution, which says police officers have to have probable cause to stop you. They have to have a reason to believe you’ve done something criminal before they can stop and detain you.’" And so said the Michigan Supreme Court in 1990 in the case of Sitz v. Michigan. The Court said, "The Fourth Amendment does not permit these types of roadblocks" — and reversed the DUI conviction. The case went up to the United States Supreme Court, unfortunately, and that august body decided that somewhere in the Constitution there is something called a "DUI Exception". And in a 5 to 4 vote sent it back to Michigan saying there is no violation here. What’s interesting is that the Michigan Supreme Court — bless them, for there are fewer and fewer of them — said, "Well, if you will not protect our citizens in the state of Michigan from this kind of police conduct, we will. And we again reverse the conviction and this time we rely upon our own state constitution."

The state of Washington and three other states have followed suit. In 44 states today, however, it is legal to stop you for absolutely no reason other than the fact that you are driving a car. The only purpose is to check you out for drunk driving.

We lose the most rights in exchange for the illusion of safety, and the article is chock full of more Bill of Rights-trampelling examples.

[via Greg from Austin]

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