On July 4th, 1776, America’s founding generation took its first historic step towards an experiment in freedom that unleashed one of the most innovative and productive nations in world history. On July 2nd of that year, the Second Continental Congress had voted to separate itself from the oppressive tyranny of the Kingdom of Great Britain. Two days later, the Declaration of Independence was drafted (though historians dispute whether it might have been signed a month later).
Since that time, citizens across the US have celebrated American-style freedom on the Fourth of July, grilling out and firing fireworks in honor of the liberties enshrined in the Bill of Rights. However, some alarming new Independence Day traditions have emerged in the contemporary United States. State and local police across the country are preparing “no refusal” DUI and DWI checkpoints at which citizens will be investigated for suspicion of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, not on the basis of their driving, but simply due to their geographic location. Those who refuse to submit to a breathalyzer test will be forced to endure a blood test instead.
Texas police have announced that they will be running “no refusal” programs with mandatory blood testing for those who refuse breathalyzers, as will law enforcers in Oregon and Tennessee. Judicial officials will be on hand all throughout the holiday weekend to approve warrants, in some cases over the phone, that allow officers to take blood from citizens by force, which will then be examined for intoxicants. Due to the questionable constitutionality of its program, Tennessee state law requires that the locations of the checkpoints be made available to the public in advance. The Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security has publicized its checkpoint locations, which can be found at this link.
Civil liberties advocates have long argued that checkpoints violate the Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution, as being in a geographic location does not constitute probable cause to launch a criminal investigation against an individual. Also, checkpoints take officers off the street, where it would be easier to watch for reckless drivers, and instead concentrate them in specific locations where drivers wait in a line, making it impossible for police to determine whether or not the individuals being investigated are driving dangerously. Without being able to watch for signs of reckless driving, officers will rely on less reliable indicators such as communication skills or redness of eyes to make judgments on drivers’ level of impairment, possibly putting individuals with colds, allergies, or long shifts at work in a position to be falsely suspected of DUI. Those who do not want to submit to a breathalyzer test could then be subjected to a blood test by force on the very day set aside by Americans to celebrate freedom from tyranny.
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