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Where Are Your Papers?

I've heard of sobriety check points, but this seems a bit ridiculous.

I know that stops like these net a lot of valid arrests. Drunk drivers and other criminals are taken off our roads and put into jail. But to me, that's just not a good enough reason to set aside the fourth amendment.

That amendment requires that Americans be secure in their "persons, houses, papers and effects." Stopping people who are otherwise traveling in a perfectly legal manner down a public road to inspect them because they might be doing something wrong is a blatant violation of what those words stand for.

But hey, if it pads the arrest stats why not, right?

Rob Port owns and operates Say Anything.


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Comments (31)

There are thousands of peop... (Below threshold)
Michael:

There are thousands of people who are convicted of reckless or drunk driving and get their licenses revoked or suspended. Many, if not most, just keep driving, and endanger us all.

The use of public roads is a privilege to be exercised responsibly. It's not a right. From a 4th Amendment perspective, a driver's license is not your paper. It is issued by, and belongs to, the state. And I think the state is well within it's rights when the police check to see if you've got one while you're using public roads.

So Michael, because others ... (Below threshold)
mantis:

So Michael, because others may break the law, we should give up our freedoms enumerated in the Bill of Rights? A driver's license may or may not be our "papers", but a car is definitely part of a person's effects, and simply being on public roads does not constitute probable cause.

A lot of people break the law using their computers. Does that mean the government has the right to search yours?

One can look under the head... (Below threshold)
arb:

One can look under the heading "Valid Searches and Seizures Without Warrants" below the amendment on the page you linked to and read the facts about allowed vehicular searches.

Personally, I believe drive... (Below threshold)
Jay:

Personally, I believe driver's licenses are not something the government ought to be issuing. It's an example of extension and abuse of power that happened because advances in technology. If it didn't look like a horse and carriage, it could be treated as something new and open for the plucking. Much the same as airwaves don't look much like paper.

"...simply being on public ... (Below threshold)
Toby928:

"...simply being on public roads does not constitute probable cause."

Mantis,
Actually driving a car DOES constitute probable cause to check for a valid license. It may rankle you but that is the current law.

And Arb, good catch on that link to findlaw. Spells it out pretty clearly.

Tob

So lemme see if I get this ... (Below threshold)
s9:

So lemme see if I get this straight... it's perfectly okay to demand to see identification for airline passengers with the intent to check their names against a "no-fly list" of unauthorized travelers, but it's an unconstitutional invasion of personal privacy to do the same for automobile drivers?

Come on, people. Where is your patriotism? There is a War™ going on, you know— we're all going to have to pitch in if we're going to win it. What difference does it make to law-abiding citizens if they have to slow down for a bit and show their license to drive to a law enforcement officer every now and again. It will make us all so much safer in the long run.

The Fourth Amendment plays ... (Below threshold)
Mark A.:

The Fourth Amendment plays no role in this at all. That's absurd.

There is no constitutional right to drive. Driving privileges are the province of states, and states are empowered to regulate that privilege as they see fit.

As a prerequisite to obtaining that privilege, probably every state requires people to carry their license whenever they drive, and to produce it to officers who stop them for whatever reason they see fit. Most states require drivers to agree to this in writing, thus adding a contractual element as well.

A drivers license check is not a search and seizure, and never has been considered one. Probable cause or any suspician is not required. However, such stops must usually be done randomly or uniformally to avoid the appearance of selectively targeting protected classes of people, i.e. race, religion, sex, etc.

Drivers license checks are a nuisance to most people, but they re extremely effective. Particularly, they are a major nuisance to those whose license has been suspended, those without insurance, those who are intoxicated, those with outstanding warrants against them, etc.

I hate drivers license checks almost as much as I hate idiots who fail to go on green lights, make right turns from left lanes, or stop in the middle of streets to pickup passengers. But I don't hate them nearly as much as morons who try to invoke the United States Consitution where it has no pertinence at all.

Fourth Amendment? Give me a break.

Do you have any idea of wha... (Below threshold)
Sean:

Do you have any idea of what the Fourth Amendment does and does not protect? Have you any idea that you are supposed to present your license anytime it is requested? Do you realize that driving is a privilege not a right?

There is nothing "illegal" happening here. The Fourth Amendment is not being infringed, or even implicated. Cripes.

You guys are looking at thi... (Below threshold)
Rob:

You guys are looking at this the wrong way. We're not talking about the privelege of driving, we're talking about my right to not be stopped and questioned by the police for the simple act of proceeding in a legal manner down a public road.

Those of you who think this sort of thing is ok have a rather skewed sense of freedom.

No Rob, you have a rather s... (Below threshold)
Sean:

No Rob, you have a rather skewed understanding of the privilege of driving and how it interacts, or doesn't, with the Fourth Amendment. Just like having a checkpoint to stop every car on the road and make sure the driver is not breaking the law by being drunk, the police have the authority to set up checkpoints to stop every driver and make sure none are breaking the law by driving without a license.

Sheesh. Not understanding exactly what is going on indicates a rather skewed sense of public safety.

Are you going to argue that checkpoints for drunks are a bad thing? (Lord, I hope not). Are you going to argue that people without a driver's license may not pose a significant hazard to others on the road (I know, properly licensed people cause/get into accidents very frequently - but can you honestly say that someone who a) either cannot pass the driving test or b) did something so stupid and/or dangerous that his license was suspended/revoked are not inherently dangerous?).

Your rant does not comport with the facts of the situation. Nobody's civil liberties are being infringed, and the public is being protected.

Alright Sean. I still don'... (Below threshold)
Rob:

Alright Sean. I still don't see where a few drunk driver arrests legitimizes traffic stops without probable cause, but I guess you do.

Whatever. Just don't come crying to me when the police are knocking on your door just to check up on you and make sure you aren't doing anything illegal. But maybe you'll be ok with that too, because they might make some arrests and protect the public.

As I understand it, if they... (Below threshold)
Krusty Krab:

As I understand it, if they stop you in a road block, as long as your license plates/inspection sticker are up to date and you present a driver's license, then in the absence of suspicious activity on your part (such as having a beer in your hand or slurring your speech), they can't request other information, such as your vehicle registration or insurance card, or make an arbitrary search of your vehicle.

It's true that driving is a privilege and not a right. But this doesn't mean that the contents of your vehicle (excepting your driver's license, which is state property) is subject to random search and seizure.

Sean: Your rant does not comport with the facts of the situation. Nobody's civil liberties are being infringed, and the public is being protected.

I think you need to refresh yourself on the meaning of a "rant". Rob sounded pretty reasonable to me, and he asked a legitimate and somewhat troubling question, unlike your emotionally charged response (aka "rant").

As I understand it... (Below threshold)
Rob:
As I understand it, if they stop you in a road block, as long as your license plates/inspection sticker are up to date and you present a driver's license, then in the absence of suspicious activity on your part (such as having a beer in your hand or slurring your speech), they can't request other information, such as your vehicle registration or insurance card, or make an arbitrary search of your vehicle.

And this is where my problem comes in. What constitute's suspicious behavior? Shifty eyes? A nervous demeanor? Shaky hands? How many people are getting their vehicles searched because they're a little nervous in front of an officer?

And don't get me wrong, I have the upmost respect for law enforcement. My own father was a cop for 20+ years. But even he agrees that this sort of thing will only lead to abuses.

Rob says:"We're no... (Below threshold)
Mark A.:

Rob says:

"We're not talking about the privelege of driving, we're talking about my right to not be stopped and questioned by the police for the simple act of proceeding in a legal manner down a public road."

I say: Rob, that right does not exist, and it never has.

Rob also says:

"Whatever. Just don't come crying to me when the police are knocking on your door just to check up on you and make sure you aren't doing anything illegal. But maybe you'll be ok with that too, because they might make some arrests and protect the public."

I say: Rob, we're not talking about police entering your property. We're talking about the concessions you willingly made when you obtained your license to operate a dangerous motor vehicle on the public highway. The two scenarios are not even remotely related, neither in theory nor in practice.

Take it from a lawyer: You're way, way, way off base. Really, you are.

I still don't see where... (Below threshold)
Sean:

I still don't see where a few drunk driver arrests legitimizes traffic stops without probable cause, but I guess you do.

It isn't "a few drunk driver arrests". It is the authority to set up a roadblock to check for sobriety behind the wheel. And you're not talking about "traffic stops" (neither, by the way, is the article you quote), it, and you, are talking about setting up driver's license checkpoints. Sorta like those drunk driving/sobriety test check points. Are you connecting the dots yet? Maybe you don't understand the difference between a "traffic stop" and a "checkpoint". In the first, only certain cars are stopped. In the second, all cars are stopped (which is what makes them Constitutional).

As for the traffic stops actually mentioned in the article, they reference: "speeding, drunk driving and distracted driving." All of which are illegal and offenses for which you can be stopped and fined. Nobody is talking about pulling over random cars for no other reason than to ask for a driver's license. Maybe this is where your confusion lies.

As I understand it, if they stop you in a road block, as long as your license plates/inspection sticker are up to date and you present a driver's license, then in the absence of suspicious activity on your part (such as having a beer in your hand or slurring your speech), they can't request other information, such as your vehicle registration or insurance card, or make an arbitrary search of your vehicle.

For crying out loud. Now your conceding that an officer can ask for your license at a checkpoint?! That was the point of your whole rant/post.

And who said anything about vehicle registration, anyway? The article you linked and quoted says nothing about vehicle registration or proof of insurance. Which, by the way, are both legitimate documents for an officer to ask you for at any stop - traffic or checkpoint.

Rob, the more you talk about this issue the less sense you make. Just chalk this post up to over-exuberance, realize you're completely wrong, and move on. Your other posts seem much more coherent.

Sean, I think you need to c... (Below threshold)
Rob:

Sean, I think you need to calm down a bit. That second quote was not me writing, that was "Krusty Krab."

My point is this: Before I am taken aside by law enforcement for questioning and/or inspection there had better be a good reason for it. The idea that I might be breaking the law simply isn't a good enough one. You see, I still believe in that whole "innocent until proven guilty" thing and the fact that I should be secure in my "person" and "effects" from unreasonable search and seizure which, to me, includes questioning by a police officer without just cause.

What's next, background checks for everybody entering a playground lest one of the people trying to do so be a child molester?

But hey, that's just me. I guess I value the spirit of freedom embodied in the constitution more than I value the right of local law enforcement to generate a flow of revenue from busting people for small offenses and/or being over ridiculously low BAC limits at random check points.

Rob,Who said anyth... (Below threshold)
Mark A.:

Rob,

Who said anything about "questioning and/or inspection?"

The article discusses drivers license check points. Several states do this, and I've been through plenty. I've never been "questioned and/or inspected," unless you think being asked to display your drivers license is tantamount to interrogation and a search. The law sees a huge distinction between those activies, and so do most rational people. There is no slippery slope here, so rest the paranoia.

As for your quip about the presumption of innocence, you're barking up the wrong tree. The burden of proof that one is legally operating a motor vehicle falls on the operator, not the other way around. People are *not* presumed to hold valid licenses, to be insured, or to be the registered owner of vehicles. That is why proof is required to be carried with the person whenever driving.

Rob, how old are you and where do you live? Are you educated? From this post, and the one about privatizing toll road operations, it does not sound as though you've seen or experienced much of this country.

I guess my initial post sta... (Below threshold)
Michael:

I guess my initial post started this, so I should mention that I agree with Mark A on the law (I'm a lawyer also). And the courts are very careful to distinguish between these kinds of random stops to check for licenses and more intrusive searches, like getting into your house (almost always requires a warrant) or pulling you over outside of the context of a random license check (requires probable cause, like erratic driving or a bad number flashing on the radar gun). Mark is correct -- there really is no Fourth Amendment issue here and nothing new or outside the context of well-established law. The original post was just uninformed.

And, returning to my origin... (Below threshold)
Michael:

And, returning to my original point, we all have an interest in being protected against injury or death caused by a drunk driver who had his license revoked and continues to drive, as many do. Thank God some police departments are addressing this issue. The inconvenience of a license check is a small price to pay, in my view.

I saw a TV show a while back with a more creative solution. The cops sent notices to a bunch of people with revoked licenses telling them that they had won a free TV. When they showed up driving their own cars to claim their prize, they were videotaped, busted, and taken off to jail.

Rob sez I still don't se... (Below threshold)

Rob sez I still don't see where a few drunk driver arrests legitimizes traffic stops without probable cause,

Well... I don't see where a few gangbangers who bring guns into a courtroom and shoot the place up legitimizes metal detectors and x-ray screens for everyone entering the courthouse without probable cause ....

Right?

Ok...I'm a bit biased here... I am SO friggin' tired... FOUR TIMES IN THE LAST TWO WEEKS ... of having to process vehicular MANSLAUGHTER cases and it never seems to be the guy, spaced out of his gray cells on speed or booze, that gets killed. And they never seem to have a valid driver's license EITHER.

I don't know, every time I'... (Below threshold)
Rob:

I don't know, every time I've been pulled over at a stop point here in ND I get the "Had anything to drink? Where you headed? What's that in your back seat?" routine.

And I don't think I'm misinformed, I just think you guys disagree.

And seriously Mark, there's no need to be so caustic. Its just a difference of opinion. Some of you think I'm wrong, I think most of you guys are wrong. Just make your points and move on.

Caustic? Guilty. Sorry.</... (Below threshold)
Mark A.:

Caustic? Guilty. Sorry.

But wrong? Nope. There really is no room to disagree or debate the legality or constitutionality of these stops if performed properly.

I definitely agree that they are inconvenient. I hate them. I mean, my hookers have to scramble to get dressed, I usually need to dump a quarter oz of cocaine through the shifter boot, and I have to practice talking while inhaling so the fifth of scotch in my belly doesn't wilt the face off the officer. But that's the price I have to pay as a safe driver.

I mean, my hookers have ... (Below threshold)

I mean, my hookers have to scramble to get dressed, I usually need to dump a quarter oz of cocaine through the shifter boot, and I have to practice talking while inhaling so the fifth of scotch in my belly doesn't wilt the face off the officer.

Did you say that you were a lawyer? Heh. Figures.

I'm being pretty calm here.... (Below threshold)
Sean:

I'm being pretty calm here. I didn't know the second quote was from Krusty Krab, it wasn't in quotes or italicized so I assumed it was your statement. Sorry. Of course, you agreed with it and took it a step further by asking what constituted "suspicious behavior". But okay, it wasn't your quote.

I don't know, every time I've been pulled over at a stop point here in ND I get the "Had anything to drink? Where you headed? What's that in your back seat?" routine.

That's because you were at a sobriety checkpoint. Just because these nice ossifers didn't ask for your license, registration, and proof of insurance does not mean they don't have the authority to so.

Okay. I'll lay it one more time for you. And perhaps if I tell you that I am also a lawyer it will make you pay a little more attention to this one.

The police have the authority, and it is Constitutionally permissible, to set up a roadblock, stopping all cars on the road, and check for sobriety, valid licenses, registration, and proof of insurance. You don't have to be doing anything illegal for this kind of stop and questioning to occur.

On the other hand, if you are driving down the road and a cop pulls up behind you. He does not have the authority to pull you over just for the heck of it to see if you have a valid license. He first needs a visible reason to pull you over, like a lane change without a blinker, swerving in your lane, out of date license plate registration sticker, etc.

The article you linked and quoted discussed checkpoints to stop drivers and verify valid licenses. This put you in a tizzy. I hope now you can see where you are wrong. The law is crystal clear on this point.

Oh, and a police officer can walk up to you on the street anytime, in any public place, and start asking you questions. Granted, unless there is a reason to detain you, you have the right to refuse to answer and walk away. But don't think an officer can't just approach anyone on the street and start asking questions.

And, just to fry your brain, both a car and a person can be searched for weapons upon "reasonable fear". No probable cause necessary.

I guess I value the spirit of freedom embodied in the constitution more than I value the right of local law enforcement to generate a flow of revenue from busting people for small offenses and/or being over ridiculously low BAC limits at random check points.

Well, if you don't like a particular set of laws, i.e. "small offenses", do something about them. That's the beauty of living in a democracy. Get enough voters to agree with you and repeal the fines for those "small offenses". Same goes for the "ridiculously low" BAC limits. I mean, it isn't as if there is any actual science behind those limits anyway, right? So change them, crank 'em up. That'll make the roads safer.

Sean, you really need to wo... (Below threshold)
Rob:

Sean, you really need to work on your reading comprehension. Krusty Krab's comments were made in a comment post directly attritbuted to him.

Seriously, debating with you is like trying to get the attention of a goldfish in a bowl.

But Rob, you kept dancing a... (Below threshold)
Mark A.:

But Rob, you kept dancing and circling the bowl with your remarks about sobriety checks, interrogation, searches, presumptions of innocence, home searches, and other red herrings that really don't belong in a discussion of license checkpoints in the context of the Fourth Amendment.

More importantly, the quote Sean addressed *was* repeated in your post (directly beneath Krusty Krab's), without italics and without quotation marks. So your dance around the goldfish also employed smoke and mirrors.

Hope that wasn't too caustic.

Ah, I see where the confusi... (Below threshold)
Rob:

Ah, I see where the confusion is with the Krusty Krab thing. In my comment I failed to do the quote code correctly.

My bad.

You guys are still wrong though. Just my opinion.

Sean wrote, The article ... (Below threshold)

Sean wrote, The article you linked and quoted discussed checkpoints to stop drivers and verify valid licenses. This put you in a tizzy.

A "tizzy"? Rob,..are you in a "tizzy"? I thought you just disagreed with the practice. Maybe it's just that some of these commentators have put you in a "tizzy".

Likwidshoe,This ma... (Below threshold)
Mark A.:

Likwidshoe,

This may come as no surprise, but I see it like Sean.

Disagreeing with the practice is one thing. But invoking the 4th Amendment is the type of hysterical reaction that probably falls in the category of "tizzy." The "tizzy" label is corroborated by Rob's desperate attempts to justify his post, which only dug him into a deeper analytical hole.

It seems the "tizzy" gathered enough steam to cause Rob to launch an unjustified and caustic (I should know) attack against Sean. Rob was very wrong, and Sean deserves an appropriate apology ("my bad" doesn't cut it).

As for the issue at hand, you can like or dislike the practice of license checks. Big deal. But anyone who claims it is unconstitutional is out of their gourd. It's a very simple analytic exercise, and the practice has been uniformally upheld. Hearing this from three different attorneys (probably from three differnent states, as well) may have amplified the "tizzy," but that is because Rob was left exposed with no analytical refuge at hand. On this issue, Rob is clearly a (gold)fish out of water.

I see...so you can declare ... (Below threshold)
Rob:

I see...so you can declare your opinion of these stops constitutionality the correct one and declare that anyone who disagrees with you is "out of their gourd."

Right. Very reasonable stance you've taken there Mark.

And I actually think my original post was quite reasonable. It wasn't until a couple of you came in here and started throwing insults around. I mean, in your very first comment you called me a moron.

Maybe my opinion on this matter makes me stupid. I've seen no convincing argument as to that from you or Sean, but I've never claimed to be all that smart either. What I think this thread is indicative of, more than anything else, is the fact that you are a small and petty little person who obviously gets his rocks off being all hostile on the internet to people you disagree with. Probably because you're a meek loser in real life.

But enough with the flame war. I'll not engage in it any further.

Rob,The law, espec... (Below threshold)
Mark A.:

Rob,

The law, especially constitutional law, is awash with shades of grey. But you happened to pick a topic that is essentially black and white.

You are not disagreeing with *me* (or Sean or Michael), you're disagreeing with the appellate courts and supreme courts of every state that has tackled this issue. There may even be a SCOTUS opinion on this.

The point is, as you have been told by several people here, the law is well-settled. Even if it weren't, the question is a simple one for anybody with a rudimentary understanding of constitutional law.

The beauty of the internet is that you have access to opinions, advice, and even facts from people of all walks of life. Here, you attracted three lawyers who advised you that, essentially, there is about as much room for "opinion" on this topic as there is in the question of 'what is two plus two?" If you persist in trying to support your "opinion" that the sum is three, be prepared to attract some harsh words from the mathameticians in the audience.

Rob, you and I probably read many of the same blogs. Have you seen me "get my rocks off being all hostile on the internet to people I disagree with" other than you? Nope. The fact is, on this post, and a few others, you appear to be out of your element (whatever that may be).

I enjoy reading blogs, but one of my pet peaves is people who feel free to post uninformed "opinions" on issues about which they have no understanding. I am further irked by people who bolster their "opinions" with incoherent fragments of analysis that have no place in the same argument. In several of your recent posts at Wizbang, you have demonstrated a tragic inability to keep your eye on the ball, while also demonstrating an ignorance of historical context. Your arguments and analysis lack intellectual integrity. And when nudged in the right direction by people educated and experienced in the topics, you dig in deeper, solicit the help of Likwidshoe, and attack people like Michael and Sean who were more polite than me in their efforts to help you. What a nice addition to Wizbang.

Finally, I'll take your petty bait: If you would like to imagine me to be a "meek loser" in real life, fine. But the dozens of juries who deliberated on my complex cases have each reached the opposite conclusion. And, at 6'3" and 200 lbs, I am far from "small" as you claim--but I probably pale in comparison to the fathead you appear to be.

I, too, am finished with this flame war. No doubt Likwidshoe will once again pipe up for the last word in your defense.




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