- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 23, 2011

A quartet of Democratic senators expressed out -rage Tuesday at the thought that Americans might object to being stopped and interrogated while going about their daily business. The hard-left solons - Frank R. Lautenberg of New Jersey, Harry Reid of Nevada, Charles E. Schumer of New York and Tom Udall of New Mexico - are pressuring technology companies to censor a popular software feature available for Android phones, Blackberries and iPhones that enables drivers to avoid a warrantless search by police during their drive home.

@-Text.normal:It wasn’t so long ago that “Papers, please” checkpoints could only be found in Eastern European countries under the thumb of the Soviet Union. They were tools of oppression designed to keep the populace in check. In 1990, the Supreme Court decided that such techniques could be used in the United States because of the “carnage” caused by drunk driving - the Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable searches and seizures notwithstanding. The advent of smartphones has enabled drivers to note the locations of these stops and dispatch a warning notice to anyone who may be in the vicinity. It’s the digital equivalent of flashing one’s headlights to warn of an upcoming speed trap - a form of free speech as old as the automobile itself.

Mr. Reid, Mr. Schumer, Mr. Lautenberg and Mr. Udall don’t see it that way. They wrote a letter pressuring the chief executives of Apple, Google and Research in Motion (makers of the Blackberry) to “remove these applications from your store unless they are altered to remove the DUI/DWI checkpoint functionality.”

There’s good reason to question the constitutionality and effectiveness of checkpoints. Michigan’s highest court outlawed roadblocks under the state constitution. Most other jurisdictions, however, have jumped on the bandwagon because checkpoints bring in big cash. As a typical example, police in Costa Mesa, Calif., gladly accepted federal grants to set up a roadblock on Jan. 7. A total of 1,005 vehicles passed through with two DUI arrests made, which equals a 99.8 percent sobriety rate. The officers confiscated five vehicles and issued 53 tickets for various infractions wholly unrelated to the DUI “carnage” used to justify the stops in the first place.

Real drunk drivers deserve severe punishment, but the best way to catch them is to respect the Fourth Amendment. Instead of having cops stand around behind barricades interrogating soccer moms, have them patrol the streets looking for evidence of impaired driving. It works. In the meantime, high-tech companies ought to email these senators a free Constitution app for their smart phones.

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