By Eric Peters
If the occasional random roadside stop n’ frisk is a good idea – and not a violation of anyone’s rights – why not make such gantlets ubiquitous – and permanent? That’s the nut of San Antonio Deputy Police Chief Anthony Trevino’s argument in favor of establishing permanent DWI checkpoints. He’d like them in the vicinity of what he calls “hot spots” – that is, establishments where alcohol is served, such as restaurants and bars. (See here for the news story.) But why not everywhere? After all, “drunk driving” is a possibility anywhere.
If Trevino’s wish is granted, the price of going out to dinner will include not merely the possibility of having to submit to an unwarranted (and unwanted) interrogation and inspection by the likes of Trevino and his pals. It will be a certain thing. The new normal – part of the routine. Just like being forced to assume the I surrender pose at the airport, spread your legs and let a blue-shirted goon have his (or her) way with you as the price of getting on an airplane.
It has already been established in law – sanctified by the black-clad priests of legalese – that it is not “unreasonable” (and so, not a violation of the Fourth Amendment) to stop vehicles at random – that is, without any specific probable cause – and require drivers to roll down their window, provide ID, answer questions and – at the arbitrary discretion of the costumed enforcer – remove themselves from their vehicle and submit to a sobriety test of one kind or another. To prove to his satisfaction, in other words, that you aren’t “drunk.” As opposed to the old-fashioned idea that it’s up to the law to prove you are.
If all that is “reasonable” – and not a violation of the Fourth (and Fifth) Amendment – then surely what Trevino is proposing ought to pass muster, too.
The logic is as relentless as a ripe tide. Trevino says permanent checkpoints will (drumroll, please) “save lives.” How can anyone even attempt to gainsay this? It is impossible to do so. One cannot prove permanent checkpoints won’t “save lives” – because, after all, how would you know? And it is probably true that fewer people would risk driving after consuming even the slightest nip of alcohol if they knew beforehand that it was a certain thing they’d have to successfully run a gantlet of goons.
Probably, they’ll decide to stay home instead. It’s just not worth the hassle. Like traveling by air. The exact figures are hard to pin down, but it’s pretty clear fewer people are electing to travel by air – and electing to drive instead – precisely because traveling by air entails the certainty of humiliation and hassle for absolutely no real reason beyond the vague possibility that “someone” (anyone) “might” be a “terrorist.” Thus, take off your shoes. ID. Arms up! Prostate massage.
At least when you’re traveling by car, you’ve got a decent chance of being able to go about your business without being treated like a Soviet-era prole. police 3
Now that’s on the way out, too.
Because once the idea behind all this is accepted – which it already has been – then things roll onward toward their dreary, unavoidable terminus: The criminalization of the potential and the general as opposed to the actual and specific. Pre-crime. Limitless prior restraint. Why not have cameras (and microphones) installed in every room of your house, wired directly to the staatspolizei’s central monitoring facility? It might save lives. Why shouldn’t any cop who wishes to be legally entitled to simply enter your home, at random, to conduct a “safety check”? Children might, after all, be “at risk.”
We are in fact already at the terminus – it’s just not been made overt, official and comprehensive yet.
But, they are working on it.
The day will come – not long from now – when someone of Trevino’s ilk will demand that all cars (not merely those of convicted drunk drivers) be fitted with alcohol-detection devices of some kind. This technology already exists. Why not make it mandatory – for everyone? Lives might be saved. There is nothing beyond the scope of possibility – including shock collars for travelers (something actually considered by the TSA; see here). And perhaps, drivers too. After all, why not?
Most people already do – in principle, at least. Which is exactly why they can expect to be on the receiving end of the actuality, in all its full-blossomed gory glory
Eric Peters is a longtime car/bikes/Libertarian-minded journalist. His book, “Road Hogs,” came out June 2011.
Peters has been writing a weekly column about cars for almost 20 years now. He is the author of “Automotive Atrocities” and “Road Hogs” (MBI). He lives in rural SW Virginia with his wife and a polyglot crew of animals.