News & Observers Ongoing Crusade Against DWIs

DWI CheckpointAnne Blythe, a crime and justice reporter at the News & Observer, has a thousand-word article on increased enforcement and DWI checkpoints in Raleigh. In those roughly 30 paragraphs, never once does she quote a defense lawyer. In fact, the only person quoted in the entire article is Lt. Tim Tomczak, a Raleigh police officer who “helped the city department win a $525,270 federal grant last year from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for DWI enforcement.

Lt. Tomczak is one of Raleigh Police Departments DWI and traffic point men, and has been for years.

There’s nothing wrong with this. Part of Lt. Tomczak’s job is to convey to the public the Raleigh Police Department’s view on impaired driving issues.

What is wrong is an article in a purportedly unbiased newspaper in which Lt. Tomczak is the only person quoted.

That leads to this whopper:

He is a big believer in the idea that checkpoints can reduce alcohol-related crashes. National studies have shown that not only do they reduce alcohol-related crashes by about 20 percent, but also that every dollar invested in checkpoints can save communities between $6 and $23 in costs from alcohol-related crashes.

I’m a big believer that checkpoints are often an unconstitutional infringement on individual’s liberties that otherwise harass people, most of whom are committing no offense at all. I believe that checkpoints violate the fundamental principles that our Founders held dear: that people should not be detained except upon probable cause. I’m aware that because of the drug war and a 30 year effort to limit drunk driving, that the United States Supreme Court has carved out exceptions to a general presumption against checkpoints. I’m also aware that since the 1980s, these exceptions, as is always the case, have gotten more and more generous to police and the state.

I also know that a lot of criminal defense lawyers share my view, and a lot of people who are unnecessarily swept upon checkpoints probably do as well.

But only Lt. Tomczak gets to share his view.

Damon Chetson

Damon Chetson is a Board Certified Specialist in State and Federal Criminal Law. He represents people charged with serious and minor offenses in Raleigh, Wake County, and the Eastern District of North Carolina. Call (919) 352-9411.