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Sobriety Checks are legal on Padre Island National Seashore

Posted at 5:06 PM, May 28, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-28 18:06:56-04

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Online controversy was sparked when Padre Island National Seashore (PINS) announced a sobriety checkpoint will be held on Saturday.

If you didn’t know, checkpoints to catch impaired drivers are illegal in Texas. A court ruling said it was a violation of the fourth amendment, but not all states see it that way. Thirty-eight states and the District of Columbia allow sobriety checkpoints.

If you also didn’t know, PINS isn’t Texas land, it’s federal land. That’s why a sobriety checkpoint is allowed to be held there on Saturday.

PINS law enforcement officers, who are federal officers, will be conducting the stops.

"Sobriety checks at these stops are constitutional as long as they basically are not an inordinate period of time where the person’s been detained," said Matt Manning, an attorney in Corpus Christi. "And as long as the officers move expeditiously. So it can become an unconstitutional stop basically if they detain you for a very long period of time or do a search. Or do something that kind of exceeds the goal of making sure you don’t have impaired drivers on the road...

And a good example would be if someone was stopped and there’s no real indication of intoxication, but the officers decide they now want to search. That might be a circumstance where if something is found in your vehicle that constitutes contraband it may not be admissible in any subsequent prosecution because they didn’t really have any reason to search your vehicle."

Comments on the PINS Facebook post, claim they feel their rights are being violated during sobriety checkpoints.

"Place like this where lots of people are coming, we want them to have a good time," Randy Holl said, a visitor to Masaquite Beach. "I want them to have a good time. I want to have a good time, I don’t have to worry about my family and any others. So, in the contexts it’s federal property I think it’s a good idea."

"I absolutely think that they’re necessary and they’re able to save people if—or stop people from causing injury to others," said Melissa Perez, another visitor to the beach.

"We really encourage people to plan a safe way home before--you have a plan before you come out if drinking is going to be involved," said Kelly Taylor public information officer for PINS. "Don’t wait until everybody’s drinking and then figure out who’s going to drive home kind of thing."

Manning added federal officials do have the means to prosecute misdemeanor offenses should it come to that.