The Winston-Salem Journal reported recently on the review of traffic checkpoints in Winston-Salem through 2011. The review shows that checkpoints are conducted disproportionately in minority neighborhoods.
The police are allowed to conduct these checkpoints, but only for traffic and drunk driving checks- not, as was hinted by the officer quoted belowl, as a general crime reduction tool. Defense attorney Clarke Dummit weighs in on the issue:
“These checkpoints are clearly unconstitutional. The people of North Carolina deserve better. There is no reason that any person must show papers before we pass down a public street! This is not Nazi Germany! Until an Officer has a reasonable and articulateable suspicion that a person is involved in a crime, it violates the 4th Amendment to the constitution to detain them for no reason.”
There is a narrowly carved exception to this reasonable and articulateable suspicion requirement if the Checkpoint is set up to stop the Immediate Vehicle Bound Threat of a DWI. The great harm to the public posed by a drunk driver justifies a NARROW exception to the protections of the 4th Amendment. A properly executed DWI checkpoint is legal, but a checkpoint set up to intimidate the local population is not!
The fact is that the Police Chief Scott Cunningham was honest in his letter, that the purpose of locating the Checkpoints where they do is based upon general crime control: “Another, if not the most significant factor in determining the location of stationary license checks, is the amount of crime in the relevant area,”.
Then the City immediately backtracks on this honesty because it shows that the checkpoints are unconstitutional.
I am willing to take on any of the cases either for the person charged, or the private citizen that is tired of being subjected to this treatment!
There are also studies which cite and argue that the Checkpoint is not an effective tool in crime control. Officers are more likely to prevent true crime if they are out patrolling and using their skills at spotting instances where there is a reasonable and articulateable suspicion that a person is involved in a crime, rather than sitting in a group and asking for your Driver’s License.
Winston-Salem has an excellent police force. They are generally well trained, professional officers. They do a good job at investigating crime. They should be allowed to do that rather than inspect cars for infractions.
You can find the original article here.