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Freeways and Guns

August 25, 1987

I am disturbed to see that the Department of Motor Vehicles, "has started revoking the driver's licenses of people arrested under suspicion of highway violence" (Part I, Aug. 11). Since innocent people can be, and are, routinely arrested for just about anything, this presupposition of guilt by the department seems to me to be a serious denial of due process. Even if the individual is eventually judged guilty, I am skeptical of the implicit reasoning that individuals willing to gun down innocent motorists will nevertheless shy from driving without a license.

I recognize in the DMV's action the same type of hysteria which prompted the California Highway Patrol, in the name of "cracking down on drunk driving," to institute its infamous sobriety checkpoints, in which people minding their own business can be stopped and questioned by armed police without a shred of probable cause, merely because they happen to be the fifth car or whatever. I followed the reports on these checkpoints in the paper, and I don't remember one where fewer than 1,000 cars were stopped for each drunk driving arrest made. Without a doubt the officers involved in these operations would have been much more effective on normal patrol.

We all recognize the need to identify freeway shooters and drunk drivers and to get them off the roads; it is certainly not my intention to argue the opposite. I feel, however, that it is important, in moments of crisis more than ever, to keep a sense of perspective and avoid measures which are largely for show and which trample on the rights of the vast, law-abiding majority.

RANDALL SMITH

La Jolla

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