D.C. Circuit Rules Police Checkpoints Unconstitutional

nickles2resizeLast year, many of us denounced the police checkpoints in the Trinidad area of Northeast Washington as grossly unconstitutional despite the insistence of D.C. Attorney General Peter J. Nickles that he had ample law on his side. Now, a conservative panel of the D.C. Circuit has ruled as expected that the checkpoints presumptively violate the fourth amendment and granted a preliminary injunction.

The neighborhood safety zone (NSZ) program was an outrage against basic civil liberties and neither Nickles nor Chief Cathy Lanier showed the slightest concern about the use of such authoritarian methods.

The four plaintiffs were represented by Mara Verheyden-Hilliard of the Partnership for Civil Justice (my colleague in the consolidated case involving the World Bank protest litigation). The PCD did a terrific job in the case. The court described the litigants:

Appellants Caneisha Mills, Linda Leaks, and Sarah Sloan were among the 48 motorists denied entry at an NSZ checkpoint during the first implementation of the NSZ checkpoints between June 7 and June 12, 2008.1 Each appellant was denied entry in her vehicle on account of her refusal to provide certain information. Mills refused to provide personal information regarding her identity and intended activities in the NSZ, Leaks refused to provide details about her political activity and intended community organizing, and Sloan refused to provide information about a political meeting she wished to attend.

Of course, the costs of this litigation will be born by the taxpayers due to the failure of Nickles to insist on constitutional means for combatting street crime.

Here is the ruling: 08-7127-1195636

10 thoughts on “D.C. Circuit Rules Police Checkpoints Unconstitutional”

  1. Where is the judicial outrage over: “Officers denied entry to those motorists who did not have a legitimate reason for entry, who could not substantiate their reason for entry, or who refused to provide a legitimate reason for entry.” ?!?!? I know that the issues before the D.C. Circuit (and Bush appointee, District Judge Leon) were the 4th amendment and the propriety of a preliminary injunction, but dang.

  2. Checkpoints have been used for years now, mostly after MADD initiated the “drunk driving” craze. The history of our country is rife with unconstitutional tactics, ginned up by a particular horrific occurrence, that then allows LEO’s to exert unconstitutional authority. See War on Drugs for instance.The question is how do you convince the majority of people that their individual rights are best served by not allowing them to be abrogated?

  3. It just gives a temporary break for now, where is the next court to hear this case? Humm, just as I thought. Reversed Remanded.

  4. Have these checkpoints found any “boogeymen” that have jeapordized our National Security? As George correctly suggested, these checkpoints are an excuse to racially profile in the Southwest and to “control” the bad guys in DC. The only problem is that the checkpoint to keep out the Bad Guys should be at the door of Congress.

  5. Some sanity, at last!

    I live in Northern San Diego County and there are two permanent U.S. Customs and Border Protection checkpoints within 30 minutes of where I live, one on 1-15 and one on I-5, the two primary arteries going north to Orange County and Los Angeles. The hours of operation are random and you never know when they might be in operation. Encountering an active checkpoint can delay a trip to LA or Orange County by 30 or 40 minutes, which can be a lot when you are trying to make an appointment. They don’t demand identification, but they do stand in the middle of the road and give you a strong visual inspection, obviously profiling.

    My parents live in Arizona. If we take I-8 from San Diego to Phoenix, we encounter no fewer then 3 “non-permanent” (but essentially permanent) checkpoints. In Cochise County, where the infamous Tombstone is located, there are a minimum of two “roving” checkpoints. In fact, if you ever fly into Tucson and drive to Tombstone (only about an hour and a half), you are likely to pass through one.

    Though I have noticed a decrease in the usage of these checkpoints since the change in administration, they continue to be operational.

    My uncle in Arizona is a first generation American, born of Mexican heritage. I have always found it unnerving that my uncle or, for that matter one of my fellow citizens here in San Diego County, might endure even one extra ounce of scrutiny while at home on American soil (idealistic, I know). They are American citizens, no different. Yet one can only wonder how no discrimination occurs when the basis of additional inspection starts with physical characteristics.

    Clearly, the D.C. experiment is unconstitutional. Now, how about the Western Gestapo?

  6. Well we’ve put off “Checkpoint Charlie” for at least another year. This kind of unconstitutional foolishness always reminded me of some 1960’s James Coburn spy movie in black and white with some East German Stasi agent in a black leather trenchcoat asking some old sweaty professor-type to give him the “in-vor-mation.”

  7. In Nebraska, the newest tactic (I saw one last weekend) is to set up a fake sign stating “Checkpoint ahead” and monitor people who take actions to avoid it. It’s been challenged unsuccessfully once as the court held that the man who pulled into a rest area was not in custody when approached by the officer who then received consent to search.

    Bad ideas tend to spread faster than good ones in law enforcement, but this one, whichever category you place it in, will likely go nationwide soon.

    What’s shocking to me is the number of out of state plated vehicles that are stopped in Omaha for things like following too closely or having objects hanging from the rearview mirror in violation of a local ordinance.

    The upside is that if you have in state plates, you can pretty much drive as fast as you want as law enforcement likes to stop out of state plates, seeking either drug or money couriers. Those stops net a lot more cash and prestige, but I wonder what’s more likely to kill you: excessive speed or excessive weed?

  8. I remeber when this happened. It was so creepy. A win for the Constitution! Congrats to all!!

  9. “many of us denounced the police checkpoints in the Trinidad area of Northeast Washington as grossly unconstitutional”

    Good for you!!!

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