Time to Revisit Sitz vs. Michigan
Sitz vs. Michigan is the US Supreme Court decision that officially opened the door for roadblocks in the United States. The Michigan Supreme Courts ruled that DUI roadblocks were unconstitutional. The case was appealed to the US Supreme Court and the court ruled that DUI roadblocks do not violate the 4th amendment and sent the case back to Michigan. The Michigan Supreme Court then ruled DUI roadblocks violated the Michigan Constitution, but the damage was done.
It should have been foreseen that once roadblocks are allowed for any purpose they will be used for any purpose deemed desirable by enforcement agencies. All they have to do is call the roadblock a “sobriety checkpoint” and it can serve as the excuse to enforce, harass, and intimidate, anytime and anywhere.
A recent investigation by the New York Times discovered how communities in California are using DUI roadblocks as an excuse to confiscate vehicles, assess crippling fines, and arrest motorists for a host of violations, most of which have nothing to do with drunk driving. It’s a multi-million dollar enterprise for local communities.
There have been other instances where law enforcement agencies were dumb enough to admit that their roadblocks were for purposes other than DUI enforcement and the courts have generally been quick to shut down these other uses. The exception has been the extension of roadblocks in-land from the borders, ostensibly to control illegal immigration and smuggling—as we all know, several million illegal immigrants show how effective this tactic has been.
Justice Thomas has implied that the Sitz decision was wrong. He is right.
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