Monday, September 28, 2009

An Encounter With A DUI Checkpoint

No, not me, but Tomme Arthur of The Lost Abbey was stopped on his way home from his brewery. I like the idea of random checkpoints, but admittedly there's a lot of negatives - and, frankly, the checkpoints are unconstitutional here in Wisconsin anyway. There's some possibility that this could change in the near(ish) future.

In any event, Tomme posted his story and his thoughts into a pretty compelling (if not entirely convincing) case against such checkpoints.
I was put through the paces last night. It was brutal. Sure I had been drinking and the officer was just doing his job. Yet, I felt helpless in that I was completely lucid (albeit wiped out from traveling) and about 3 blocks from my home.
Without a doubt, this was one of those wake up calls. Last night was not a heavy night of drinking by any stretch of the imagination. And yet, I found myself being asked to step out of a vehicle in a grocery store parking lot so I could walk the line. ... It’s amazing that with all the effort that was put into this Checkpoint, no one was found arrested for DUI on this evening.

So, you have a long day, a much needed beer or two, dozens of stops and no arrests. A supreme "waste of time." But, Tomme admits as much that it was a wake-up call. The point isn't just to catch drunk drivers, but rather to put some fear into people before they leave the bars that there just might be a checkpoint in the 5 blocks between the bar and your home.


  1. I have to say when I first moved to WI, the thought of no DWI checkpoints and a lack attitude towards drunk driving seemed like a great thing... However, since I've been here there's hardly been a week that there hasn't been a motorist killed by a drunk driver. The most recent Fitchburg woman who was killed (and her passenger is in serious condition), the moped user, etc. This post by Tomme only reiterates this...

    1) He *was* probably drunk (.08) when he left the brewery. If he was standing on the side of the road for 1/2 hour or 45 min, plus the time getting to the checkpoint means that alcohol was leaving his system by the time he had to blow on the breathalizer.
    2) He just says 2.5 beers, but since he was pouring I highly doubt that they were 12oz glasses. I'd bet either 16 or 20, with the latter meaning he'd just consumed ~50oz of 7% brew.
    3) He hadn't eaten anything since 3pm, which definitely affected his ability to process the alcohol in his system.

    Also, remember that any of the charts showing what you can drink and still be sober usually refer to 12oz weak American Lager as opposed to 20oz pours of yummy and potent IPAs.

    I just think that allowing DWI checkpoints here in WI is one of the few things that could cut down on drunk driving without adding costly items to the budget or imposing a pointless $.05 tax on domestically produced microbrews...

  2. Crap, "Lax attitude". Need more coffee...

  3. A couple of points that I would like to make:

    "lax attitude towards drunk driving"; say what. Getting caught drunk driving is an expensive and embarassing affair. Most responsible people take this very seriously.

    "He was probably drunk" How the hell do you know Travis! You weren't there buddy. Why don't you and your prohibitionist posse chill down.

    Checkpoints have been proven to not effective in states where they are used. Most people figure out where they are and avoid those areas.

    Wisconsin does not need to become a police state!

  4. I was stopped at one of these back in Colorado about 6 years ago, I believe. I was half and half on the experience and I'm not really sure if they accomplish anything other than holding up traffic.


  5. The last thing we need is more taxation. Brewers, mostly micro brewers are facing a 400% tax increase for your Gestapo police tactics. State Representative Terese Berceau (D-Madison) has introduced a bill to increase the state beer tax from $2 per barrel to $10 per barrel – a 400% increase in the tax! (Assembly Bill 287 on line at:
    I am sure the next thing up her sleeve is more taxation a top of this and Gestapo like police stops.
    Why isn’t this “representative” changing the drunk driving laws, instead of taxing small businesses during a recession. “If you know the fire burns you don’t put your hand in the fire”. The way the Wisconsin drunk driving laws are set up now you get a little slap on the wrist and you are let go to do it again and again and again. We would see less drunk drivers if drunk driving laws where more strict, but then the lawyers would have less to do I suppose.

  6. To anon - Give me a break. WI's drunk driving laws are the most lax I've ever seen. First DWI is an infraction? It's not a felony until your 5th one?

    Compare that to NY, where your FIRST DWI is a misdemeanor, and your second within 10 years is a felony, and has a minimum 10 day jail sentence or 60h of community service. DWI laws in this state are a complete joke, and that's why every single week there are stories about either accidents or deaths caused by DWI.

    "He was probably drunk". Well, if the body can filter out .025-.03 BAC/hour, and if he'd been held up for an hour (driving, traffic stop, sobriety test) he was PROBABLY above the .08 limit for CA when he started driving.

    And apparently the CDC thinks that they're effective:

    It's not the volume of drunks that they catch, but rather the fact that when people know that they're out they tend not to drive drunk.

    And to Anon above this, I agree wholeheartedly. Whether it's toughening penalties or allowing police to set up a checkpoint, many things can be done without resorting to taxing of product that is enjoyed responsibly by the VAST majority of users.

  7. Well there you go again Travis. Speaking and passing judgement before you have all the facts.

    What they do in New York is their business, we in Wisconsin do things differently. We call it OWI "operating while intoxicated". This could apply to a bicycle, moped, snowmobile and other sorts of transportation besides driving a car or motorcycle. Once again I will repeat myself that most people take the offense very seriously.

    Most of the time these new tougher laws are designed to bring in more revenue then just protect the public. I agree that the problem is the hard core drunk drivers.They should be taken off the street. This is where the problem has been allowed to fester.

    To the point about the guy being drunk or not. Some people can handle their liquor better then others. I am going to take Tomme Arthur at his word.


  8. Ok, sorry, for **OWI** the punishments are a complete joke. Did I get any other facts wrong? In NY "driving" counts towards mopeds, motorcycles, bikes, and snowmobiles as well, since they are considered vehicles under NYS law. Gee, where is WI in drunk driving deaths? #19 in the country? Where is NY in drunk driving deaths? #49? Where is Minnesota (who also has drunk driving as a misdemeanor for the first offence)? #46.

    Yeah, you "do things differently" out here. A drunk driver gets a slap on the wrist a half-dozen times till they kill someone, and then there's hand-wringing and exclamations of "oh how could this happen..."

    Enjoy it, just do it responsibly.

  9. Hey, in NJ if they lose their license they just drive w/o that. I think roadblocks (let's call them what they are) are too broadly implemented. Its really just a good reason for the authorities to check out everyone who goes through regardless of their sobriety.

    Most of these roadblocks are staffed with additional funding from grants (taxes), and the excessive police presence is meant to intimidate even the innocent. BTW, its mostly OT for the roadblock guys.

    As was mentioned, the roadblocks seldom prove effective. Better use of the officers would be to allow them to patrol out on the road and catch people drunk that way.

  10. Travis I back you on this one. You beat the WI dude fair with succinct facts.

  11. There are alot of factors to consider, for example, in WI we drive more v. taking a cab as in NY. We also host the Wisconsin Dells tourism and the entire State is a vacation paradise. You may think our laws are "a joke" but here in WI, we think that they are fair and balanced. Even your first OWI is going to net you a $1,900 fine and in some cases ignition interlock and treatment. So we allow for one error of judgment but it doesn't go without punishment.


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