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Articles Tagged with police power sobriety checkpoints

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A bill recently introduced in the New Hampshire legislature to limit or prohibit officers from making arrests at sobriety checkpoints has sparked opposition from law enforcement agencies and other groups, according to a recent article in the Union-Leader.

Representatives of various law enforcement agencies and House representatives banded together to hold a hearing opposing the bill, which is now expected to be voted down in committee. Opponents argued that the bill would prevent law enforcement officers from taking suspected drunk drivers off the roads, which might endanger the lives of both the suspected impaired drivers and other drivers. Law enforcement officers pointed out that New Hampshire’s driving under the influence (DUI) rate is at its lowest point in 15 years, and they credited New Hampshire sobriety checkpoints with helping stop drunk driving.

The bill was introduced to limit the powers of police officers to arrest and search vehicles at sobriety checkpoints, which the bill’s sponsor believes violates drivers’ Fourth Amendment rights. Supporters of the bill also say that it will curtail unannounced or inappropriate sobriety checkpoints. In New Hampshire, a sobriety checkpoint must be approved by a court and announced via some advertising media at least one day before it is performed, but supporters say these rules are often overlooked.

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New Hampshire police must get court approval for an NH sobriety checkpoint, but once the checkpoint is in place, they may arrest anyone whom they suspect is breaking a New Hampshire law – not just those they suspect are driving under the influence of alcohol or other drugs (DUI). However, state representative George Lambert of Litchfield says this power goes too far – and he’s introducing a bill in the state legislature to limit it.

sobriety checkpointsCurrently, Rep. Lambert believes the police have too much power to make any kind of arrest at a sobriety checkpoint. Since these checkpoints are approved or denied by courts based on whether they will deal with potential DUI properly, but not other possible crimes, the representative believes that police powers at the checkpoint should also be limited to arresting people on suspicion of DUI – but not suspicion of other possible offenses, such as driving with a suspended license.

Opponents point out that checkpoints have been helpful at deterring several different types of possible offenses, not just DUI, because drivers worry about being arrested and so avoid driving if they suspect they’d be breaking the law by doing so.

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