Washington DUI checkpoint bill dies

| 2/25/2008

An effort to crack down on drunken drivers in Washington state will have to wait until next year. As a result, Washington will remain one of 11 states that prohibit spot checks to nab drunken drivers.

At the request of Gov. Christine Gregoire, a bill was offered in the state’s House that called for allowing law enforcement to set up sobriety checkpoints. The measure – HB2771 – didn’t come up for a vote in the House Judiciary Committee prior to the deadline to advance to the chamber floor, effectively killing it for the year.

Sponsored by Rep. Pat Lantz, D-Gig Harbor, the bill sought to require jurisdictions to first apply for warrants. Applications would have listed specific locations with a high number of crashes related to driving under the influence. Cities, counties or the state patrol also would have had to advertise checkpoint locations, dates and times.

The legislation would have required judges to approve warrants if the plan “advances the jurisdiction’s interest in reducing impaired driving, taking into account potential arrests under the program and the program’s deterrent effect.”

Gregoire said the enforcement tool is vital to safety on the state’s roads. Others said it could save 50 lives a year.

Critics said the bill would violate Washington state’s protections against “suspicionless” searches. The state’s privacy protections, which are stronger than those in federal law, prohibit police searches without a greater degree of suspicion, The Seattle Times reported.

All vehicles, or those in a designated sequence – such as every fourth vehicle – would have been required to stop at checkpoints. Failure to stop could have resulted in $5,000 fines and one year in prison.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Washington in 2008, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor