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Texas Agency Wants To Set Up Statewide Driver’s License Checkpoints

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Motorists would be required to prove legal U.S. residency

Steve Watson
Wednesday, Nov 12, 2008

The Texas Department of Public Safety Commission wants to set up statewide driver’s license checkpoints and has requested a ruling on their legality.

The agency wants the checkpoints to enable authorities to stop motorists and ask them to prove they are legal U.S. residents.

The checkpoints would be staffed by state troopers or local police who would have the power to review drivers’ licenses, vehicle registrations and proof of insurance.

AP reports that State Senator Leticia Van de Putte (D-San Antonio) and 14 other Texas lawmakers have penned a letter to Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott demanding that he ignore the Department of Public Safety Commission’s request claiming it is irrelevant because no DPS checkpoint program has been authorized by the state, a regulation that has been in place since 1994.

The lawmakers also say such a move would constitute unauthorized immigration policymaking.

Following a 1979 Supreme Court ruling, it is considered unconstitutional to conduct random traffic stops to check driver’s licenses without reasonable suspicion. However, road blocks and spot checks have increasingly been used by police.

Regular driver checkpoints have increasingly come under scrutiny elsewhere across the country with some judges ruling them unconstitutional and illegal. Lawmakers have also challenged checkpoints and introduced bills to outlaw them. Rep. Charlene Lima, of Cranston, who sponsored a 2005 bill, said the checkpoints violate people’s civil rights, and “smack of a police state.” The American Civil Liberties Union also opposes checkpoints.

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The U.S. Constitution states that police cannot stop someone and conduct an investigation unless there are “articulable facts”. Within the language of the 4th Amendment driver checkpoints constitute a “seizure”.

A more sinister aspect of driver checkpoints has been the move by police in recent years toward taking blood and saliva samples rather than employing breath tests, which can be challenged. As this report from the Wall Street journal explains:

“In the past, police routinely asked suspected drunk drivers to blow into devices that extrapolated their blood’s alcohol content from their breath. Now, authorities in most states are taking blood, by force if necessary.

Laws in at least seven states allow police to take blood without the driver’s consent, without explicitly authorizing force. In most other states, court rulings have authorized reasonable force to obtain blood. Many such rulings cite a little-known fact about driving laws in the U.S.: All motorists are considered to have consented to a search of their blood, breath or urine. Such “implied consent” laws were introduced in New York in 1953, and today all 50 states and the District of Columbia have them.”

In other instances police have been caught putting signs up warning drivers of upcoming checkpoints where in fact there are none and then detaining and searching drivers who make illegal u-turns or desperately fling contraband from their vehicles.

Now Texas officials, including the Governor Rick Perry, who also supports the checkpoints, want to have the legal right to force motorists to prove they are U.S. residents.

It is now the norm to consider everybody equally likely to be guilty of something than innocent. This is proactive policing, not preventative or reactive policing. And the worrying thing is that this kind of policing is more widely indicative of a society that is NOT free.

The 4th amendment was specifically created to protect the American people against this type of arbitrary enforcement activity by over-reaching agencies. It would seem however that a modern day ‘writ of assistance’ is being operated by law enforcement officials.

Far from increasing the security of the country, these checkpoints serve as little more than obedience training for the burgeoning American police state.

If you encounter a checkpoint you should ask the personnel there if they are officers of the law, whether you are being detained or not and if they have probable cause. If the answer to one of these questions is no then there is no lawful right to stop you.

This article was posted: Wednesday, November 12, 2008 at 12:00 pm

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