Jefferson County’s Council recently voted to reject a $22,000 grant from the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission to fund Safety Checkpoints. The Council rejected the funding due to concerns over the intrusiveness of these “safety” checkpoints. It is the first time funds of this nature have been rejected by the Jefferson County Council. Although council members seem to support more traditional sobriety checkpoints, they expressed that safety checkpoints were in the best interest of Jefferson County residents. A safety checkpoint differs from a sobriety checkpoint because the main purpose of a safety check is to make sure people are wearing seatbelts, are licensed to drive, and have valid insurance.
One of the more interesting points of this debate is the seatbelt issue. Although it is illegal in Missouri to drive without wearing a seatbelt, a police officer cannot pull someone over only because no seatbelt is worn. However, the seatbelt issue is one of the main reasons articulated for stopping people at these safety checkpoints. Why would it be legal to set up an entire checkpoint when police cannot legally stop a car even if they know the driver is not wearing a seatbelt?
Checkpoints in general are already a public safety exception to the Fourth Amendment. A previous blog post covered more specifics about the legal issues with sobriety checkpoints. Any type of checkpoint should be administered with discretion, but the Jefferson County Council believes there is no place for safety checkpoints. If you have received a DWI or other charge after a checkpoint stop, please contact Jason Korner for a full explanation of your rights.
Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “Checkpoints to Continue in Jefferson County,” Leah Thorsen, October 19, 2013.