House votes to cut sobriety checkpoint funding across the state

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JEFFERSON CITY- Sobriety checkpoints in Missouri may become few and far between after the House of Representative’s Budget Committee voted Thursday to cut state funding for checkpoints, impacting both state and local law enforcement.

Rep. Scott Fitzpatrick, R-Shell Knob, chairman of the House Budget Committee, said the money taken from funding checkpoints will go toward saturation patrols instead. Fitzpatrick said using saturation patrols created more than 3,000 arrests in 2016.

“When it comes to getting drunk drivers off the road, we looked at the effectiveness of saturation patrols compared to checkpoints, and saturation patrols result in more drunk driving arrests at a lower cost,” Fitzpatrick said in a statement.

Rep. Justin Hill, R-Lake St. Louis, a member of the House Budget Committee, said using saturation patrols reduces the amount of staff on duty at a time and is overall more effective. Hill said saturation patrols are targeted to increase DUI arrests. 

However, Meghan Carter, Missouri state executive director of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, said cutting the funding for sobriety checkpoints isn’t going to solve the issue. She said her passion for advocating against drinking while driving and driving under the influence arose after two of her friends from high school were killed in a car crash.

These cuts would also affect local law enforcement, which Carter said is an issue in itself.

“We didn’t understand how or why anyone was thinking that cutting funding for sobriety checkpoints, a lifesaving tool, was a good idea. When we have a tool that’s used for saving lives, we want to make sure that tool is available to all of our law enforcement officials,” Carter said.

But Fitzpatrick disagrees.

“We’re not telling local law enforcement agencies they cannot do checkpoints. If they want to do them they can, but the state funds that go towards getting drunk drivers off the road are going to be better spent with saturation patrols,” Fitzpatrick said.

Carter said taking away the funding, takes away this tool.