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Michigan House Committee Approves Ban on Sobriety Check Lanes

April 4, 1990

LANSING, Mich. (AP) _ Michigan’s government went to the U.S. Supreme Court in its fight for the right to set up roadblocks to nab drunken drivers, but Michigan lawmakers are moving to ban the checkpoints.

The House Judiciary Committee, citing a violation of civil liberties associated with randomly pulling over drivers to check for illegal activity, voted 11-7 Tuesday to prohibit the sobriety check lanes.

Such a ban, if approved by the full House and the Senate, would take effect even if the nation’s high court rules that the checkpoints are constitutional. The court heard oral arguments on the case last month.

The state is appealing a February 1989 Michigan Supreme Court decision that let stand lower court rulings declaring the procedure unconstitutional. At issue is whether the random stops violate the Fourth Amendment’s protections against unreasonable searches and seizures.

Gov. James Blanchard had issued an executive order in 1986 directing the Department of State Police to use roadblocks to combat drunken driving.

Only one checkpoint was set up before a group of lawmakers won a court order blocking the procedure.

″I believe that sobriety check lanes are an invasion of the Constitution, an invasion of human and civil rights,″ said the bill’s sponsor, state Rep. Morris Hood. ″Today when we scan the globe and see what’s taking place in Eastern Europe, in Central America and hopefully soon in South America, we see the cry for freedom, the cry for democracy, the cry for civil rights.

″I don’t think you give away your liberty and your freedom under the guise that it may save some lives.″

State Rep. William Van Regenmorter said the right not to be harmed or killed by a drunken driver also ought to be considered. He proposed an unsuccessful amendment which would have permitted the roadblocks in predesignated high-risk areas during the night, when most drunken driving incidents occur.

If the Democrat-led House passes the bill it will face a tougher hurdle in the Republican-led Senate.

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