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N.H. House passes ban on police sobriety checkpoints

  • Lt. Greg Ferry interviews a motorist during a sobriety checkpoint in Bow. N.H. State Police



Monitor staff
Thursday, February 22, 2018

House representatives passed a bill banning the use of “sobriety checkpoints” by state and local police departments Thursday, following long-running criticism that the practice is unconstitutional and ineffective.

House Bill 1283, which passed by voice vote and without debate, would end a practice in place since 2003, in which police departments block off stretches of roads and detain drivers to observe sobriety. Critics have said the stops, which don’t require probable cause, are excessive and ineffective. A 2017 review by the Monitor found that fewer than 1 percent of drivers stopped since 2006 were charged with driving while intoxicated.

For years, the practice has been prohibited under state law unless the departments obtain a Superior Court order in advance – the new bill would strike the exception for judicial orders, effectively banning sobriety checkpoints altogether.

The floor vote came after a divided committee recommended, 12-8, to move the bill ahead. Police departments have strongly opposed the law, calling the checkpoints an important, visible tool to combat drunken driving.

(Ethan DeWitt can be reached at edewitt@cmonitor.com, or on Twitter at @edewittNH.)