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A Look at the Latest Proposed Legislation Calling for Statewide Sobriety Checkpoints

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As The American Independent reminds this morning, there have been myriad bills proposed in the Texas Legislature in recent years that would allow for the creation of so-called sobriety checkpoints. And last year's S.B. 298 -- submitted by state Sen. John Corona and co-authored by, among others, his colleague from Dallas, Royce West -- got this close to becoming a reality, having passed the Texas Senate before it died a slow, quiet death in May 2009 thanks to a House committee.

Which is why state Rep. Todd Smith of Euless is back with yet another piece of proposed legislation: H.B. 439, introduced late last week. As TAI points out, this is Smith's fifth try at making sobriety checkpoints, which Mothers Against Drunk Driving has long pushed for, a reality. But a close read of his latest proposal reveals some tweaks to previous proposals. Patrick Brendel summarizes thusly:

Officers would have more limited authority at the sobriety checkpoints than during regular traffic stops. For example, Smith's House Bill 439 prohibits an officer from asking for a driver's license or proof of insurance unless he/she has reasonable suspicion or probable cause to believe the person is or was breaking the law. The legislation also has guidelines for how often checkpoints can be held at certain locations, how long the inquiries can last, how the checkpoints must be advertised and what officials must first authorize the checkpoint.

As in: Before a local law enforcement can set up a checkpoint, they have to explain why there, why now. Says the bill, agencies have to ...

... include the number of traffic accidents in the vicinity of the location in which the use of alcohol was a factor and that occurred in the preceding 12 months and the number of arrests for intoxication-related offenses in that vicinity in the preceding 12 months. The selection of the location of a sobriety checkpoint must be made without regard to the ethnic or socioeconomic characteristics of the area in which the checkpoint is located.

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