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State Sen. drafting bill to allow for sobriety checkpoints in WI

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MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- On St. Patrick's Day weekend, police across southeastern Wisconsin are looking out for drunk drivers. Meanwhile, one Milwaukee lawmaker says there is a simple way to catch those driving under the influence: sobriety checkpoints.

Wisconsin is one of 12 states that does not allow for sobriety checkpoints. One state senator argues that's making it easier for drunk drivers to avoid the law. Others say such checkpoints infringe on rights.

State Senator Tim Carpenter (D - Milwaukee) wants Wisconsin drivers to stop for sobriety checkpoints.

"This is just trying to use options for law enforcement because currently our practices today are not working. People are drinking and driving too much," Carpenter said.

Carpenter is drafting a bill that would make Wisconsin the 39th state to allow such checkpoints.

However, some of Carpenter's colleagues in Madison have their reservations. That includes Neenah Representative Dean Kaufert. He says this could set a bad precedent.

"Sobriety checkpoints just seem to go a little over the top for some legislators. They have to have reasonable suspicion to stop you, they have to have reasonable suspicion. You kinda lose that with sobriety checkpoints and that worries some people about where we're gonna go from there," Kaufert said.

"I appreciate their concerns, however, driving is a privilege. It's not a right. Once you go out there, you have less specific civil liberties as opposed to your house," Carpenter said.

Carpenter says the bill will give local police the option of setting up such checkpoints so it won't be forced upon a community.

"We wanted to have pilot programs around the state, but if other people around the state aren't interested in getting drunk drivers off the road and I am here in this area, I think the state should allow us to give us those tools to get drunk drivers off the road," Carpenter said.

Among the states that also don't allow sobriety checkpoints are Wisconsin's neighbors to the west and north, Minnesota and Michigan.

Carpenter says he is willing to spend several sessions adjusting this bill if that's what it takes to get it passed.