TN Court Approves Roadblocks To Check Papers
Do you have something to hide?
Stopping motorists who have done nothing wrong to ask for their papers is perfectly legal, the Tennessee Court of Appeals ruled last week. The three-judge panel decided simple statistics overcame the constitutional challenge mounted by Johnny E. Monk, whose stop at a roadblock led to a four-year prison sentence because his papers were not in order.
On August 28, 2009, Monk was headed home, while towing a disabled vehicle, as he passed through Sullivan County on State Road 44 in a 1990 Chevy pickup truck. When he came up to the intersection of Possum Creek and Old River Pike, however, he was stopped by a driver's license checkpoint that had been set up by the Tennessee Highway Patrol. Monk had no license or proof of insurance because his license had been suspended for a previous drunk driving offense. Trooper Robert Johnson admitted on the stand that Monk had not been driving erratically.
The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution prohibits warrantless searches of a person without individualized suspicion of wrongdoing, but the courts have authorized roadblocks under what California DUI Attorney Lawrence Taylor calls the "DUI exception to the Constitution."