High Court To Review Roadblocks 

High Court To Review Roadblocks 
Posted by FoM on October 01, 2000 at 18:41:20 PT
By Sylvia A. Smith, Washington Editor 
Source: Journal Gazette
Police say drug-sniffing dogs and traffic roadblocks are potent weapons in their war-on-drug arsenal. For more than a year, police departments have been reluctant to send officers out to flag down motorists on the highway and examine their driver's licenses while dogs roamed outside the cars, sniffing for cocaine, heroin and other illegal drugs.The practice was put on hold when a federal appeals court ruled that an Indianapolis program geared to stopping drug peddlers was "a pretext for a dragnet search for criminals" and is unconstitutional.
Indianapolis officials say there's not much difference between drunken-driving roadblocks - which are constitutional - and drug roadblocks, and that the minor inconvenience they cause drivers is worth it if drug dealers are snagged.The Supreme Court agreed to settle the dispute and will listen to both sides Tuesday. A decision will be months away.John Krull, executive director of the Indiana Civil Liberties Union, said that if the justices agree with Indianapolis that random roadblocks are fair, "you're not going to be secure in your person, in your home. ... The Fourth Amendment won't mean anything anymore."The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution says:"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 person or thing to be seized."ICLU attorneys will argue the case before the Supreme Court on behalf of two Indianapolis motorists who were caught in the roadblock but were not arrested.Indianapolis police developed the program in response to neighborhood complaints about drug dealers, said Beth White, deputy corporation counsel for the city.During six roadblocks over three months in 1998, police stopped 1,161 cars and ended up arresting 104 drivers; 55 were charged with drug offenses, and 49 were charged with other violations."We believe if the program is random," White said, "it is not an unreasonable search and seizure. ... Our position is that the direct harm that grows out of the drug trade is sufficient to justify this minimum intrusion."Groups representing the nation's governors, counties and mayors agree and filed "friend of the court" briefs supporting Indianapolis' arguments.But not all police officials embrace random drug roadblocks. Both Allen County Sheriff Jim Herman and Fort Wayne Police Chief Rusty York think they're distasteful."It certainly smacks of the police state for people to be stopped on their way to some place," when there's no probable cause - the car weaving from lane to lane, for instance - that something is amiss, Herman said."Roadblocks are contrary to my philosophy of law enforcement," he said.York said he thinks throwing a net as wide as a random roadblock violates people's rights. ... "You're stopping so many people and interrupting their travel or their business."The city and county police departments teamed up to operate a random drug roadblock once. It was in 1998, about the same time Indianapolis police launched their program."We got a lot of citizen complaints," Herman said. "They said they weren't doing anything wrong and were just stopped because they were driving in a particular place. And we didn't get a lot (of contraband) out of it. You have to weigh those things."One of the complaints came from then-Mayor Paul Helmke, who got caught in a traffic jam in Indianapolis during one of the roadblocks. He said when he returned to Fort Wayne and found out that local police had conducted the same kind of roadblock, he put an end to it.Mark Dobson, a professor at Nova Southeastern University Law Center in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., said that if the Supreme Court decides Indianapolis is right, it will open the door to many other ways police could stop people when there is no obvious clue that a crime has been committed.Note: Indianapolis used them in anti-drug campaign.Source: Journal Gazette (IN)Author: Sylvia A. SmithPublished: Sunday, October 1, 2000Copyright: 2000 Journal GazetteContact: mroeger jg.netAddress: 600 W. Main Street, Ft. Wayne, IN. 46802Fax: (219) 461-8648Website: Articles & Web Site:ACLU of Indiana http://www.iclu.orgSupreme Court Web Site Search Protection Leads Court Agenda To Examine Police Power
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Comment #7 posted by kaptinemo on October 02, 2000 at 16:12:55 PT:
What a lawyer told me
I was once speaking with a defense lawyer on a plane flight. The subject had somehow gone around to airline security, then searches, then drugs. He was amazed that someone so obviously connected with the military would publicly say that he thought the whole thing was pointless. He informed me just before landing that there were two things you should ask the police if you are stopped in your car and they want to search you and it:"Am I under arrest?" and "If I am not under arrest, may I go now?"He explained that the first question is of paramount importance, as it lets the cop know you have enough knowledge of your rights to question a warrantless search. The only reason a cop can have to detain you is place you under arrest. No arrest, no reason.The second question is to cut across any attempts at stalling you until backup arrives; they will try to keep you there until they do. And if they use canines, very often the handler will 'jump' the dog onto the car, simulating a 'hit', and use that as the basis for a search. By asking if you may leave since you are not under arrest, you make it plain to the officer that you know as well as he does that this detention is unlawful. You have the option to leave at that point. If he tries to stop you, he must arrest you...and show 'probable cause'. If he arrests you *before* the fact, he will have to explain what his probable cause *is*. A matter that can cause anything found later to be thrown out of court as being 'fruit of the poisoned tree.'This of course does not mean that all cops will know the line they are about to cross; many cops simply have never had to deal with citizens that know their Constitutional rights. They will do anything, up to actually arresting you, for no real probable cause. And that's when you have them. So, if they try to stall you, just politely but firmly repeat that second question. If they hem and haw without giving a straight answer or snapping on cuffs, then inform them that you are leaving. Don't hang around; that's just what they want. Gently, politely force them to make a decision. But never play their game. AND SEVEN TIMES NEVER AGREE TO A SEARCH!!!
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Comment #6 posted by Dan B on October 02, 2000 at 14:19:28 PT
Dog Searches, Part II
BCG,By the way, they no doubt would get away with locking you up over the weekend (these are cops and, therefore, considered "above the law"--your situation would have been labeled "an honest mistake," and the cops would have lost nothing). Because it is unlawful for police to detain someone without probable cause, one way out of this mess would be to ask if you are under arrest. If not, say goodbye and wish the officers a nice day--provided they haven't stolen your driver's license (if so, ask for it back--they might give it to you--but don't start an argument, either). Any way you slice it, the police had no right to badger you into handing over your stash. The sad thing is that if you had not given in, all charges probably would have been dropped, provided you know (or know of) a lawyer with even a half-gram of intestinal fortitude and knowledge about the law. Chock this one up to personal experience; if all you got was a citation and lost your stash, those cops probably saved you a bundle in court and attorney's fees.Dan B
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Comment #5 posted by Dan B on October 02, 2000 at 14:06:54 PT:
Dog Searches
BCG,I recommend never giving anything over to the police, even if they threaten to "bring in the dogs." If they do bring in dogs, the search will likely be thrown out because it is an unlawful search. That is, if they have no lawful reason to search your car in the first place then they should have no lawful reason to search for a reason to search. (Does that last sentence make sense?). The Supreme Court will rule on this topic soon, making the law more clear. That is, one of their upcoming cases involves the right of cops to let the dogs loose to sniff around the car of anyone they happen to stop, thereby creating probable cause if the dogs indicate that they smell something. Of course, the dogs sniffing around is itself a warrantless search. We'll see how this one goes; let's pray/hope for the best.Dan B
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Comment #4 posted by BCG on October 02, 2000 at 08:10:03 PT:
Warrantless searches
What about the threat of using drug dogs? I was stung once when I gave over the goods after the threat of drug dogs was used. I was told if they cops had to wait for the dogs and they found something, I was spending the weekend (long Labor Day weekend) in jail waiting for the judge - BUT, if I just gave over anything i might have, I would just get a citation.kap, any thoughts on this?
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Comment #3 posted by kaptinemo on October 02, 2000 at 04:44:52 PT:
A friendly reminder
Anyone who drives anywhere should carry the ACLU bust card: basic thing to remember is that cops try to trick you out of your 4th Amendment Right against unreasonable and warrantless searches by pressuring you into allowing a search of your vehicle. They will engage in all kinds of browbeating, such as "If you haven't got anything to hide, why not let me search?" Just keep your mouth shut other than repeating to Officer Jack Boot that you do not consent to this warrantless search. If anything is found afterwards, and you can prove that you did *not* give the goon permission, it generally gets thrown out.Sad, very sad, that "The Land of the Free and The Home of the Brave" has to put up with "Yor papus, pliss!" I thought that why we fought the Nazis and the Cold War to stop?
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Comment #2 posted by EdC on October 02, 2000 at 02:04:55 PT
Do the cops get to keep the guilty cars? Do they get to suit up in their SWAT finery and raid houses based on probable cause? Do they get to kill someone?Answer these questions at the on the next ballot. Vote for any candidate willing to put an end to this ridiculous drug war.
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Comment #1 posted by CongressmanSuet on October 01, 2000 at 23:35:08 PT:
In the community I live in....
I believe there are less than 100 residents, thats including the legion of barefoot kids that run the 2 streets everyday. Yet, we get special treatment once a month, in the way of a drug checkpoint. Been thru twice myself, and only an idiot would actually get busted. But, if they make 2 busts all day, they are happy. Cops are people too, and guess what? Humanity generally sucks, so, what do you expect? My favorite was watching a local news cast and hearing about the guy who was busted with half of an ounce, and, hey, we are looking at trafficking charges because we found 4 baggies with cannabis substance on them, at his residence, because his 78 year old mom who lives with him said, yes, officer. Gee, poor guy forgot to burn his old baggies,and might have to eat crappy lima beans and drink decaf for a year because of it. and I can pay my taxes to keep this merrygoround going,....and the band played on.
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