(KCPW News) Police in Utah may no longer be allowed to conduct DUI checkpoints under a bill approved today by the Utah House of Representatives. The bill’s sponsor, Republican David Butterfield, argues the checkpoints border on unconstitutional searches. He said saturation patrols would be a more effective way of catching people driving under the influence, noting that there were no arrests during a pair of recent Labor Day checkpoints.
“We could say ‘well that means no one was driving impaired, nobody was driving under the influence.’ I would argue that in fact there were drivers driving under the influence on the road that day. They just were avoiding the checkpoint,” said Butterfield.
However, many lawmakers opposing the bill argued the checkpoints are a law enforcement tool that should not be taken away. Under Utah law, DUI checkpoints must be publicized ahead of time. Representative Paul Ray says that fact alone is a deterrent for those who might drink and drive.
“People, when they drink and they drive, they’re not as concerned about getting pulled over because most of them think they are driving ok. They don’t think they’re giving any kind of a signal for law enforcement. But when they know that there are sobriety checkpoints out there and there’s other ways they can get caught, so their behavior isn’t going to give them away, it’s more of a deterrent to people,” said Ray.
Several lawmakers noted the Supreme Court has ruled that checkpoints are constitutional. The bill still allows checkpoints for fugitive searches, Amber Alerts, and wildlife and invasive species searches. Despite opposition from law enforcement agencies across the state, House Bill 140 passed by a vote of 41 to 33 and now goes to the senate.