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Ohio police laud the deterrent effect of sobriety checkpoints

The use of sobriety checkpoints by law enforcement agencies has been criticized by civil liberties advocates across the country, but the Ohio State Highway Patrol says that the primary goal of these efforts is to deter drunk driving rather than to catch and punish offenders. A drunk driving checkpoint in Belmont County led to 11 arrests on Aug. 20, but police say that motorists in the area were told about the action well in advance.

While police agencies may point to the advance warnings they give about sobriety checkpoints to show that they are more concerned about deterrence than enforcement, the truth is that a 1990 U.S. Supreme Court ruling leaves them with little choice. The nation's highest court ruled that checkpoints were constitutional provided that local residents were given advance warnings. The OSHP scrutinizes drunk driving arrest records to determine where to place sobriety checkpoints, and these efforts are generally stepped up in the summer months and during the December festive period.

The Aug. 20 sobriety checkpoint was set up on Ohio State Route 7 in Clairsville, and it led to motorists being charged with offenses including OVI, driving with a suspended license and driving with an open container of alcohol. The OSHP were assisted by members of the Belmont County Sheriff's Department, the Bridgeport Police Department and the Martins Ferry Police Department.

Ohio motorists who are caught at a sobriety checkpoint may believe that refusing to submit to a breath test may deny police and prosecutors valuable evidence, but those who take this path face a loss of their driving privileges for a year even if the charges against them are subsequently dropped or dismissed. A combative attitude could also make it more difficult for criminal defense attorneys to paint the events in question in a more positive light and secure an agreeable plea arrangement for their clients.

Source: The Times Leader, Sobriety checks lead to 11 arrests", Dylan McKenzie, Aug. 23, 2016

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