The legislature has batted around the idea of DWI checkpoints for years. Fortunately, our elected officials have never decided to approve the deplorable practice of treating every Texas driver like a criminal sans cause.
Despite the best efforts of MADD, Texans want the police solving crime, not harassing innocent motorists.
Fortunately for the “papiere bitte” crowd, the legislature isn’t the only way to create new police powers in Texas. Save that lobbyists money MADD, invest in a few Amicus Curiaes instead. A body of elected officials in Austin just approved drug detection roadblocks, and it wasn’t the legislature.
Lujan vs State– (here is a good summary at Justice for Yall)
What happened? The El Paso Sheriff set up a roadblock, in which they stop, detained, and harassed drivers without cause. The deputies testified that the “primary purpose” of this roadblock, was to check for insurance/ DLs. But they just happened to have a K-9 drug detection unit nearby, to, you know, help check for insurance.
Lujan was detained, didn’t have his license, the K-9 was unleashed on his car, and the cops found a few grams of cocaine. Drug war rant- engage! Think about the tax dollars wasted on the prosecution and appeals, all over a few grams of coke. What, is El Paso out of blow now? What if Lujan was going to be the next Barack Obama, or W? Both former cocaine consumers who didn’t get caught, and became POTUS. Did I mention that over 30,000 Mexicans have died in the last 4 years because we gave the cartels a monopoly on the American cocaine market. And if that’s not enough now the government wants to repeal another piece of the 4th Amendment to save this meaningless conviction. Ok. Back to Lujan’s appeal.
Lujan appealed his conviction, arguing that this roadblock was a subterfuge to check for drugs and a 4h Amendment violation. The court of criminal appeals disagreed.
From the opinion-
If the primary purpose of the checkpoint is lawful- a license check as opposed to general law enforcement-police can act on other information that arises at the stop. The checkpoint’s primary purpose of license and insurance verification does not prohibit police from considering other unrelated offenses that they discover during the stop. Edmond, 531 U.S. at 48. In Edmond, the Supreme Court made clear that officers are not required to conduct the license and registration check wearing blinders and ignoring any other violations of the law that they observe. Officers can still act on what they learn during a checkpoint stop, even if that results in the arrest of the motorist for an offense unrelated to the purpose of the checkpoint. Id.
A brief suspicionless stop at a checkpoint is constitutionally permissible if its primary purpose is to confirm drivers’ licences and registration and not general crime control. Id., at 39. In denying the motion to suppress, the trial court implicitly found that the primary purpose of this checkpoint was a permissible license and insurance check. Ross, 32 S.W.3d at 855. This finding was supported by the record.
That almost sounds like protection from over zealous police checkpoints. But guess what? Right now, every cop in the State is being told to testify their checkpoint was just to check for DLs/insurance. Police policy memos will be drafted stating that the “primary purpose” is not for drugs/DWI, but have a K-9 unit, or DWI investigator handy anyway.
It’s a drug detection roadblock in all but name, all cops have to do is apply the right label to their activity, and it can pass fourth amendment muster. Words spoke louder than actions in Lujan.