State House Overwhelmingly Passes Bill Banning Sobriety Checkpoints


For several legislative sessions in a row the issue of sobriety checkpoints have come before state lawmakers.

If you’re not familiar with what they are, it’s a law enforcement tactic whereby they stop everyone who happens to be passing along a given stretch of road and they conduct a sobriety check. If you decline, there are consequences for your driving privileges.

Many, including this observer, have been skeptical as to whether or not this tactic is in keeping with our 4th amendment protections against unreasonable searches. Or, beyond that, if this is even an effective tactic to make our roads safer.

There’s little evidence that these checkpoints reduce alcohol-related traffic incidents.

But law enforcement leaders like the checkpoints and have been successful in beating back legislation to end them. For instance, during the 2015 session, HB1084 was defeated in the state House on a 34 – 59 vote.

In the current legislation session there is another iteration of this bill, HB1442 introduced by state Rep. Rick Becker (R-Bismarck), which would end the practice of sobriety checkpoints. Here’s the specific language:

I’ll be honest, I had thought this bill was unlikely to get through a floor vote even despite the House Judiciary Committee’s 12-2 “do pass” recommendation. But this afternoon the bill passed in a landslide vote.

A lawmaker shared this image of the vote tally:

I’m surprised.

North Dakota lawmakers are usually quite deferential to law enforcement when it comes to these matters. This is a rare instance where they eschewed that deference.

Let’s hope it’s a trend which continues.