Police Roadblocks Are Unconstitutional
As I was driving my automobile last week in Columbus, Georgia, I passed over the Second Avenue bridge and was immediately in a traffic jam. Turns out, it was the Columbus Police Department conducting a sobriety roadblock. I support the police and what they do. They are great people who keep us safe. But, we have a Constitution. Unless we protect it, we’ll lose it.
The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution and the counterpart in the Georgia and Alabama Constitutions are clear in their purpose: the individual has a fundamental liberty interest in being secure in their persons and papers.
As a refresher the Fourth Amendment states:
“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
The Amendment was designed by the founders to prevent the practice of the King issuing general warrants to search anyone, anywhere, anytime.
The Supreme Court has interpreted the Fourth Amendment over the years by using a balancing test of “reasonableness.” In Michigan State Police v. Sitz, 496 U.S. 444 (1990), the Supreme Court held that police sobriety checkpoints were constitutional based on the policy considerations in combating drunk driving.
The problem with the opinion, as pointed out by the dissent by Justice Stevens, is that roadblocks are based on absolutely no reasonable suspicion of a crime being committed. Roadblocks lead to random, suspicionless searches of potentially hundreds of individuals on the whim of a government official. That is not reasonable and more akin to a general warrant, which our founding fathers hated and set out to prohibit in passing the Fourth Amendment.
This is likely why the Supreme Court in City of Indianapolis v. Edmond (2000), refused to uphold roadblocks for random drug searches. The Court split hairs and argued that there was a distinction between sobriety roadblocks and roadblocks to detect “ordinary criminal wrongdoing.”
Lawyer Mark Jones practices criminal defense in Columbus, Georgia and Phenix City, Alabama. Mark offers a free consultation concerning your criminal case.
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