Law-enforcement officers can pursue drunk drivers with new assurance of court support in this holiday season, and that is a good and important development.
The U.S. Supreme Court refused earlier this month to hear appeals from a lower court's decision upholding a drunk-driving conviction based on a breath test. The conviction had been challenged on the ground that the motorist was not permitted access to an attorney before the test was conducted. We think that the high court was justified in supporting this limitation of the right to counsel.
There remains to be settled a court challenge to roadblocks used selectively in some states, including California, to check the sobriety of motorists. These have proved a useful tool. The checkpoints do not in themselves turn up a large number of drunk drivers. Only about one in every 150 motorists stopped at three checkpoints in Los Angeles County early this month was arrested. But knowledge of the existence of checkpoints serves as a deterrent to those tempted to drink and drive.
That may have been a factor in the relatively low death toll on the state's highways during the 30-hour Christmas period. There was only one fatality in Los Angeles County; the statewide toll was 13.