JADD -- JuristsAgainst Drunk Driving -- strikes again. Last week the Supreme Court ruled that a sobriety checkpoint for nabbing highway drunks does not violate the Fourth Amendment prohibition against unreasonable search and seizure. This week the court ruled that a videotaped interrogation of suspected drunk drivers by police is not a violation of the Fifth Amendment prohibition against self-incrimination.

Of the two decisions, only the second is harmless. The court is right that a videotape of a suspect, say, slurring his speech while giving name, address and age is not self-incriminating testimony but a species of physical evidence, like a fingerprint or a handwriting sample. As Justice Holmes once put it, the Fifth Amendment prohibits "extort{ed} communication," not the simple use of the "body as evidence."

The videotape decision is harmless also because it contents itself with exploring the contours of the Fifth Amendment. It is not animated by an anti-drunk-driving zeal before which established constitutional protections are expected to bow.

Not so last week's sobriety checkpoint decision, which did such violence to the Fourth Amendment. In that one, the justices fell over each other decrying the monstrous toll taken by drunk driving in this country. Given the gravity of the problem, six justices found constitutional a sobriety checkpoint at which every driver on a Michigan highway was stopped. In 75 minutes, 19 policemen stopped 126 drivers. Yield? Two drunks.

It took Justice John Paul Stevens writing in dissent to point out the inconvenient fact that there is no evidence that sobriety checkpoints do anything to reduce the rate of drunk driving accidents. Moreover, stopping all motorists without exception, and without requiring that the police have some suspicion that a particular driver is drunk, is not a trivial violation of the Fourth Amendment. "Some level of individualized suspicion," writes Justice Brennan, "is a core component of the protection the Fourth Amendment provides against arbitrary government action."

But if you're not drunk, what do you have to be afraid of? That's not a question we ask in this country. We don't randomly stop people on the street to check for drugs and say, "If you're not carrying drugs, what do you have to be afraid of?" Because as Justice Brandeis explained 62 years ago, "the right to be let alone {is} the most comprehensive of rights and the right most valued by civilized men."

If you haven't broken the law and have given authorities no reason to think you have, you should be allowed innocent passage in your own country. What does a sober driver have to fear at a sobriety checkpoint? As Justice Stevens put it wisely and coyly, "Unwanted attention from the local police need not be less discomfiting simply because one's secrets are not the stuff of criminal prosecutions." You might, for example, be riding in a car with someone you ought not be riding with.

"To be law-abiding is not necessarily to be spotless," writes Stevens. It is because even the lawful are spotted, and because everyone wants to be left alone, that this sort of Constitution-narrowing police action should be banned.

Sobriety checkpoints, however, are part of a larger phenomenon. When dealing with serious social ills, like drunk driving or drug abuse or illegal immigration, it has become an American habit to take the lazy road. The path of least resistance is always to violate privacy first. Now it is sobriety checkpoints. Yesterday it was mandatory drug testing. As a curb on illegal immigration, even national ID cards were once contemplated.

Why should the first resort be to restrict rights? Sobriety checkpoints are really a most timid and unserious approach to the drunk driving problem. After all, what happens to those two drunk drivers they nabbed in Michigan? If first offenders, they would probably get a couple of hundred dollars fine and a mild license suspension.

If we were serious about drunk drivers, we would do what Norway does: throw the book at them. If you drive in Norway with a blood alcohol level of 0.5 (half of what Michigan requires), you lose your license for two years. That's for a first offense. And if your blood-alcohol level is really high, you're likely to spend time in jail. Second offense: You lose your license for life.

Instead of stopping the sober, we should be grounding -- and jailing -- the drunk. But we aren't, because a universal screen of the innocent is good PR and even better politics. It shows you really care about the problem: Why, you are willing to put a dent in the Fourth Amendment to prove it.

As the problems of crime and drugs and drink get worse, the cry to do something -- anything -- will tempt politicians and judges to start narrowing constitutional protections. Sobriety checkpoints are not the worst example of that trend. But they are a disturbing sign of things to come.