Fourth Amendment

Roadblocks For Revenue Go Too Far, Says Kentucky Supreme Court


Cash or credit -- no personal checks.

Some cash-strapped towns are mere layabouts when it comes to raising revenue. They wait for people to actually generate some sort of wealth before raking off a take. But not Liberty, Kentucky. Officials there required anybody living or working in town to buy stickers and stick them on their cars. And when some teachers at local schools failed to fork over the required ten bucks, Liberty cops scooped 'em up at roadblocks. At least, they did before the Kentucky Supreme Court put an end to the lucrative fun.

As reports:

When teachers at a local school failed to pay for a sticker, town leaders had police set up a roadblock to issue them citations. Cars with a sticker were allowed to pass through the checkpoint, while drivers of stickerless vehicles were interrogated about where they lived and where they worked. Joseph A. Singleton was stopped at this checkpoint and when police searched his car they found a small amount of marijuana. Singleton moved to suppress the evidence on the grounds that police had seized him without probable cause or articulable suspicion, in violation of the Fourth Amendment.

Singleton intitially won his case, only to see his victory overturned on appeal. In reviewing the case (PDF), the Kentucky Supreme Court pointed out that, while the courts have signed off on an awful lot of uses of law-enforcement roadblocks, "a checkpoint set up to stop vehicles without individualized indicia of suspicion on the random chance of catching a law breaker is too great a breach in the wall of protection provided by the Fourth Amendment." And, as laws go, the court continued, enforcing a tax stamp with no relation to public safety is a pretty pissant reason to pull people over. Well, writing for the unanimous court, Justice Daniel J. Venters actually said it in polite legal-ese:

Indeed, a city ordinance would appear to be of lesser stature than a "crime" as used in Edmond, and thus rather than distinguishing Edmond, the better assessment would appear to be that Edmond would apply with even more force against a roadblock set up solely to detect violations of a city ordinance.

Venters also pointed out, if city officials really wanted to squeeze ten dollars from the non-compliant teachers, "police officers could have simply walked through the school parking lot and cited cars without a sticker."

I've written about roadblocks before. Usually, the authorities behind them claim some sort of overblown public safety rationale for stopping and interrogating people with little or no cause along the public roads. It's peculiarly refreshing, in an odd way, to see government officials drop the crime-fighting schtick and engage in overt highway robbery.

And better yet that they were then slapped down.

NEXT: Sex and the Supreme Court: The True Story of Lawrence v Texas

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  1. This guy called White Idiot a poser:…..ories.html

    1. “To be a vagabond, a bum, and make an art of it – this idea enchanted me.”[…]

      But he didn’t do it in a vacuum; he maintained his blog for free from the Moab public library.

      Just because it’s free doesn’t mean you’re not reaping the “evil” benefits of capitalism. Where did the resources to build that library, and make the computer he uses, come from? What a clown.

      1. He never called capitalism evil, AFAICT. And his friend has a point: he barely uses any taxpayer dollars at all. This guy is a clown, to be sure, but he’s a harmless one, more than I can say for the Evil Brigade in Washington.

        1. He sounds downright Paulian here:

          Instead, he is actively promoting “his idea that money is an illusion,” Sundeen said. “The Fed just prints it up, it doesn’t mean anything and it’s going to lead us down the road to serfdom.” Suelo simply doesn’t want to contribute to that, and so he lives life on his own terms.

        2. I like what he said about owing nobody a thing.

    2. He went to the University of Colorado

      There’s your problem. CU is filled to the brim with college know-it-all hippies. I’m sure Ward Churchill would be proud.

    3. If only all kooks were so harmless.

  2. It should go without saying that all roadblocks are revenue motivated. There is simply no other reason to erect them.

    1. Except when you find a set of leg irons with no legs in them. Then it is time for a hard-target search of every gas station, residence, warehouse, farmhouse, henhouse, outhouse and doghouse in that area.

    2. There’s also the fun of harassing and intimidating people.
      And if you’re lucky someone will turn around or run away, giving you the opportunity to chase them down and beat them up.

      1. No… let them run home, *then* chase them so their dogs can be shot all good and properly.

  3. Disband police agencies. All of them.

  4. It’s peculiarly refreshing, in an odd way, to see government officials drop the crime-fighting schtick and engage in overt highway robbery.

    And better yet that they were then slapped down.

    Yup. This has me giggling like a school girl. Unfortunately, there’s plenty of other pretty blatant rights-violating stuff going unpunished out there.

    1. the wall of protection provided by the Fourth Amendment

      Yeah, given the blatant rights-violation you allude to, this particular line from the decision made me guffaw. What once might have been a real wall is nothing but a Hollywood set dressing these days.

  5. Can we call them Highwaymen instead of Highway Patrol?

  6. So is this one of those rare nut rubs, as opposed to the punch?

    1. We call that a Rosie Jones.

      1. Well, my equally delicious response got rejected twice by the spam filter. Too bad for you losers.

      2. Thank you!

  7. This HAD to be the result of Democrats being elected to their city council.

  8. Cars with a sticker were allowed to pass through the checkpoint, while drivers of stickerless vehicles were interrogated about where they lived and where they worked.

    “Look officer, I know you’re just doing your job, but I have nothing to say to you. Are you detaining me or am I free to go?”

    And in WA state, if they still issue you a citation, you are not required to sign it.

    1. That’s a good “Just Say No” moment, sage.

      But let’s not forget… situations like this are just primers for the near-future, when roadblocks will be an everyday thing. Then again, we may not be able to afford to leave our homes, as gas may be ten bucks a gallon by then…

      1. I’m sure curfews will follow. Or maybe they have them already.

        1. Not until the next big crisis. Another 9/11-level incident will likely do the trick, and both Teams will sign on.

    2. “Look officer, I know you’re just doing your job, but I have nothing to say to you. Are you detaining me or am I free to go?”

      Prepare yourself to rot in county for a few days after receiving a good beating.

  9. All this in a town called Liberty. Priceless.

    1. Drink!

      1. “Freedumb”, as the libtards say.

    2. Couldn’t the town be sued for false advertising? Let’s get that money BACK!

  10. we live in a police state

  11. When evidence is suppressed because of illegal searches, they should have to give the drugs back and apologize (and then I guess give them a head start so they can’t just arrest them again). That would be great.

  12. So, um, what about redlight cameras?

    1. Those are vital to the public safety. Do you have something against saving lives?

      1. Pro Lib is a well-known child hater.

    2. As far as I know, we’re all in favor of laws against running red lights, so it’s not the same situation at all. Plus the red light cameras don’t stop you and try to search your car for drugs.

      1. Not yet, they don’t. Besides, when the law is adjustable along with the light, maybe there is an issue.

      2. I am against red lights, and all traffic devices and laws restricting movement on public right of way. I would like for streets to be the way they were in the 1890s- people going wherever and whenever they damn well please. People are not entitled to streets being convenient for any favored form of traffic, or any physical improvements whatsoever.

        Some examples:…..p?t=441911

        Libertarian streets would look this way- but with more cars designed with more rugged wheels and suspension driving on the streets.

        1. This is an area where doctrinaire libertarians and utilitarians have to part ways. Street libertarianism in action would quite objectively lower the quality of life.

          1. Except for the european (yeah you read correctly *european*)towns experimenting with removing stop signs and lights – no carnage over the last couple of years.

            Or Wyomings experiment with removing speed limits – worked fine except it inconvienced the cops – they were just making up speed limits “based on prevailing conditions” – so WY put a limit back on.

          2. Quality of life is not objective. Definitely not regarding infrastructure policy.

            Libertarianism in street existence would surely alter lifestyles. And life would slowly adjust from the consequences that regulated infrastructure has caused.

      3. 1. Cameras are used for revenue more than they are for safety – lowered standards of proof and shorter yellow lights usualy follow-on with red-light camera installation.

        2. Some of us aren’t for more laws and more penalties being attached to running red lights and stopsigns – some of us are for hammering your arse when you hit someone, not because you didn’t come to a full and complete stop and sit there for some arbitray length of time as determined by the cop watching the intersection “for safety”.

        3. Its mostly moot for me anyway as where I live you can run red lights if you ride a motorcycle.

        1. Now I’ve ridden through most of the damn country, and I have never heard of this. Where is this place so I can add it to my next itinerary?

          1. It came up in Illinois recently but I don’t think they passed it. A proposal to let motorcycles and bicycles proceed through a red board if they already stopped and waited a moment. The reasoning was that signal sensors don’t detect bikes well so riders end up waiting a long time. Sensors used to be more common but they seem to use them mostly in left turn lanes now, and only as a way of skipping the arrow.

  13. Can you imagine the lost revnue if they need a real cause to pull someone over{i.e. dangerous driving or breaking actual law}No more weaving between the lines and that crap.It would be awful.Drug raids and property seizures can’t pay for everything

    1. Not doing anything suspicious is in itself suspicious, and considered probably cause.

  14. A roadblock might have saved this guy:

    California Man Alleges Motorcycle Seat Gave Him 20-Month Erection…..-20-month/

    1. Why did’t he call his doctor after 4 hours?

    2. I had that once – it was called “my teens.”

  15. They have DUI roadblocks around here from time to time; the newspaper always publishes how many cars were stopped, how many DUI arrests, etc. The DUI arrests are always in the 1-2% range (of all cars stopped). Strangely, nobody ever seems to raise the question of whether this consistently low rate means that it’s not really as much of a crisis as they say it is.

    1. No, because then they reply with the counterfactual; “If we didn’t have the roadblocks, the DUI rate would climb to 104.7%!”

    2. Hell, 1-2% is way better than TSA manages, so they have that going for them, which is nice.

      1. Well, real cops, for all their faults, are pretty well trained for what they do – LETA, followed by assignment to a partner.

        TSA is something like two weeks of “class” and then you’re out touching sack on your own.

    3. It’s even funnier when they list the crimes people were arrested for at the roadblocks. Usually there are 5x as many drug possession arrests as DUIs.

  16. Fuck tha pole lease.

    1. Regardless, you still gotta pay the rent!

  17. If there’s a purer example of rent-seeking than this to be found, I’ve not seen it.

    1. True, but then again, having the police arbitrarily kick your door in while allegedly looking for drugs, only to steal your wallet and ransack your house for jewelry to pawn could be construed as somewhat controversial. I guess there will always be property seizures to capitalize on for little budget shortfalls.

  18. The irony, of course, was that teachers, who live off tax revenue, were the ones not paying the tax.

  19. lol, could you imagine living in a Hick Town like that? Wow.

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