Omar Villafranca, NBCDFW.com
State lawmakers are expected to consider a bill that would allow sobriety checkpoints across the state. The question is how much freedom do you want to give up, or how many lives do you want to lose to drinking and driving?
Despite the horror stories of drunk driving accidents and public service announcements warning about the dangers of drunk driving, it is still a problem in Texas. Lawmakers are pushing for a solution: sobriety checkpoints.
Bedford State Representative Todd Smith is pushing for a sobriety checkpoint bill this legislative session. Republican State Senator John Carona pushed a sobriety checkpoint bill through the Senate last year, only to see the bill stall out in the House. Carona is hoping this version makes it through both chambers in this session.
"If the House will pass some version of sobriety checkpoint legislation, then we will embrace it here in the Senate," Carona said from his Austin office. "These are intended to be set up in areas where there are bars and where there is a documented pattern of abuse and drunken driving already in place."
But not everyone likes the idea of sobriety checkpoints.
"How much freedom do you want to give up? On the other hand, how many lives do you want to lose," said Fort Worth civil rights attorney Frank Colosi. "We all love law enforcement, but every tool for law enforcement, every one, is an infringement on liberty."
Colosi wants to make sure the checkpoints can't be used by law enforcement to search citizens for unrelated infractions.
"The very people that are proposing this will tell you when you ask them, that the voters in the election two months ago in November, voted to get the government out of people's lives," said Colosi. "So what are they doing?"
If passed the way the bill is written, law enforcement would have to have a set pattern to stop cars, say, every third car. Also, officers or deputies could only ask for a license and proof of insurance if they had reasonable suspicion that the driver was breaking the law.
The checkpoints could only be performed by sheriff deputies in a "county with a population of 250,000 or more" or by police officers in a "municipality with a population of 500,000 or more."