So, recently in the news, I read where police officers in Cleveland, Ohio were using a ruse to try and apprehend individuals who may be driving on the road with drugs in their possession. Having handled many kinds of Wake County Checkpoint Cases, I am aware of the restrictions the Police were operating within and how this little ploy was used to somewhat circumvent restrictions on their ability to randomly stop individuals on the road.
In this particular case, the Police Force posted signs on a busy road indicating that a drug checkpoint with drug-sniffing dogs was ahead. The problem is, there is no such thing as a drug checkpoint. Under restrictions placed by our courts, including the Supreme Court, there are a limited number of reasons police can randomly stop drivers for a checkpoint. In North Carolina, the police are only permitted to utilize checkpoints to investigate for drunk drivers or to check driver’s licenses.
So, if they cannot actually set up a ‘drug checkpoint’ what’s the point of putting up signs indicating there is one ahead? Well, within proximity of those signs, police are staked out to see if anyone does a quick U-turn or throws something from their window, which may indicate they are scared of being caught at the checkpoint with drugs. See, since the majority of people do not realize that ‘drug checkpoints’ are illegal and unconstitutional, they assume the police to be truthful with these signs and act accordingly.
Okay, so this is creative and may not run afoul of the courts precedent that the checkpoint itself is not permitted. However, there are a couple of issues this Raleigh DWI Defense Attorney has with this approach. First, there is something inherently wrong with the police lying to the general public. As disconcerting as it may be to everyone, the truth is police can lie. If they are interrogating you, they can make up facts to try and persuade you to confess. And while I do not approve of those practices, at least it is tailored to suspects. However, by posting false information, in the hopes that individuals will ‘show their cards’ is something entirely different. I kind of look at this as ‘The Boy Who Cried Wolf.’ If the public comes to not trust signs posted by the police because they could be lies, what else should the police not trust in the conduct of their police?
My second issue with this approach is there seems to be some inherent risk of some presumed ‘reasonable suspicion’ based on actions the police may not like. You see, in order to justify a stop, regardless of the circumstances, the State must have articulable reasonable suspicion in order to justify the stop. This is related to the 4th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution which prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures (the exception, of course, are the checkpoints). So, when the police are staked out, looking for anyone who may want to avoid the imaginary checkpoint, or who otherwise may be doing something totally unrelated to the checkpoint, could be stopped because the police are purposefully looking for actions that otherwise may not amount to reasonable suspicion of criminal activity. As was the case with a recent driver stopped during this checkpoint. He reported that he pulled over to the side of the road twice to check his directions and was stopped by the police. It wasn’t until the drug dog came and they searched his car did the police realize that he was not transporting drugs and was being truthful when he explained his reason for stopping. This individual was stopped for nothing more then because safety-minded by pulling over before verifying his directions – that does NOT amount to reasonable suspicion of criminal activity.
If you are facing a Wake County DWI Charge and are in need of quality legal representation, contact us at the Matheson Law Office for your free consultation. We will be happy to discuss your legal options and ensure your rights are preserved.