NYC Puts Heat On Drunk Drivers

In New York City, where everything happens in double-time, police couldn't wait to show off the latest crackdown on drunk drivers. They set up a sobriety checkpoint to dramatize it, CBS News Correspondent Richard Schlesinger reports.

The police promised, starting at early Monday morning, they would seize the cars of DWI suspects and hold onto them before any trial.

They kept their word and even jumped the gun. The first car was seized at 10:30 p.m. Sunday night - not at a checkpoint but out on the road. By Monday morning, four suspects and three cars had been locked up.

"Essentially what this is doing is getting society to take driving while intoxicated more seriously," said New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani.

Not surprisingly, there are strong critics of this program. And, not surprisingly, they have threatened to sue.

"In this situation they're seizing the merely based on arrest. It doesn't depend on whether you're convicted of the crime and I think that will be, in public's mind, unfair," said Norman Siegel of the new York Civil Liberties Union.

The mayor is ready to fight any legal challenge.

"I'm quite confident that we will prevail," he said.

Giuliani may be on to something. On Monday, the county executive of Nasssau County, which borders New York, announced he wants to do the same thing. And any court fight is likely to be watched by other mayors anxious to show they can be tough on drunk drivers too.

Giuliani said 16,000 people were killed by drunk drivers last year, 31 of them in New York City. City police arrested 6,368 people on drunken driving charges last year and 6,836 in 1997.

This is not the first of Giuliani's policy to stir up controversy. His curbs on loitering by the homeless and sex shops in the city have drawn similar protests and legal challenges.