Sobering idea? State floats idea of random DUI checkpoints

SEATTLE -- A group of Washington state lawmakers and advocates are looking to institute random sobriety checkpoints statewide, they said Wednesday.

Spurred by a number of high-profile drunk driving cases this year - including one that killed two grandparents and critically injured a mother and son - the group will likely recommend the controversial idea, which is currently against state law and would require a constitutional amendment.

"The drumbeat is getting louder," said State Rep. Roger Goodman, D - Kirkland. "We've made a lot of progress in enacting DUI laws, but there's one missing piece and that's the sobriety checkpoints, which have been shown to reduce deaths by 25 to 30 percent in other states that have them."

Goodman said 38 other states nationwide and the District of Columbia currently have similar laws on the books. Washington lawmakers have tried to pass a law in the past and have failed, he added, in part because the state constitution has very strict privacy laws.

Opponents point to those laws as one of a number of reasons why the checkpoints would be bad for constitutional rights, said Doug Honig with the ACLU of Washington state.

"In our society, if you're out and about on the highway and you aren't doing anything wrong, law enforcement shouldn't be stopping you," Honig said. "They should have to have individual suspicion that you are doing something wrong and not engaging in fishing expeditions."

"It's a matter of general freedom in our society," he added.

A legislative work group had three meetings this summer discussing the idea, Goodman said. They will likely present a report on the issue on Dec. 1.

Until then, advocates for victims and survivors of drunk driving accidents have joined the cause.

"It shows them that we care, that we're trying to take whatever steps necessary to ensure that this doesn't happen to anyone else in the future. It can happen to any of us," said Amy Ezzo, program and fund development manager with MADD Washington state.

When asked about the opposition to the issue, Ezzo responded with a question of her own.

"What are we willing to give up for our civil liberties?" she said "Are we willing to give up the life of a loved one? A neighbor, our favorite barista? Someone that we care about?"