Checkpoint USA: What Better Way To Celebrate Independence Day?

The 4th of July has come and gone, but there’s a video of a police checkpoint encounter that’s riding the internet popularity wave. It’s had over 2.8 million views since its July 4th posting.

A young man by the name of Chris Kalbaugh recorded his Independence Day stop at a DUI checkpoint. The video shows Chris rolling his window down a few inches after being stopped and the cop instructing him to roll it down all the way. When Chris told the officer that he could hear him just fine through the window as it was, the cop told him to pull off to the side for further questioning (and harassment). The officer refused to answer any of Chris’s questions about whether or not he was being detained.

Chris complied and pulled over to the side where he was instructed to step out of his car. He was interrogated further while they got a drug-sniffing dog. Chris never consented to any search of his car, and they had no probable cause-based warrant to search him or his car, but since they can easily get a dog to “alert” to the presence of drugs, they don’t need either to conduct a search anymore.

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As expected, the dog “alerted” on the driver side window when the officer directed the dog to do so. That gave them the authority to search Chris’s car without consent or probable cause. They’d argue that the dog’s “alert” constituted their probable cause. But a dog reacting to its handler’s hand gestures is just a dog being a dog. That’s why they end up with so many false positives. So, also as expected, no drugs were found.

You can watch the video here:

These DUI checkpoints are popular around holiday weekends. They say they’re just trying to keep drunk drivers off the road. A lot of times they do end up arresting drunk drivers. And that’s not a bad thing.

But I’m opposed to any kind of checkpoint like this, because they’re blatant violations of the 4th Amendment. They operate on the premise that everybody is guilty, and they get to decide who is innocent.

What if Child Protective Services teamed up with local police to “crack down” on child abusers? They could conduct random searches of people’s houses, question the kids and parents and decide whether there is abuse going on in that home. Would they catch real child abusers? Probably. And that’s not a bad thing. Would they end up jailing innocent people? Absolutely.

And maybe while they’re at it, the police would also search for drugs in these same people’s homes. Again, I’m sure they’d find some whom they could arrest and throw in jail.

But in their effort to “crack down” on crime, they break the law themselves. The 4th Amendment is supposed to protect innocent people from searches and seizures. Police need to establish probable cause that someone has committed a crime. And after that, they have to get a judge to sign off on a search warrant that lists the exact things to be searched. Then, they can come and search you or your car or whatever it is that the warrant gives them authority to search. If police were bound by that law that they swore to uphold, there would be no DUI checkpoints.

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