Checkpoints: When Can the Police Legally Seize You Without Reasonable Articulable Suspicion?

Checkpoints: When Can the Police Legally Seize You Without Reasonable Articulable Suspicion? The United States Supreme Court upheld sobriety checkpoints against a Fourth Amendment challenge in Michigan Department of State Police v. Sitz.  The court there considered the important public interest in preventing DWI as balanced against 4th amendment liberty interests. This was a horrible decision for your rights, but, nonetheless, it is the law of the land.  The court did make it clear that the checkpoint must be reasonable, minimal, not a “surprise”, and only for the purpose of a legitimately important state interest.   What if you approach a checkpoint with your windows rolled up and do not speak, as has been recently publicized by a Florida Lawyer?  Is this legal? What would happen?  Can the officer force you to roll down the window, effectively “searching you” after having seized you? The answer is not so clear, and may depend on what state you are in.  This is a very brief review of North Carolina Law regarding checkpoints. The question ultimately lies in a balance between advancing a state interest in keeping the highways safe from impaired drivers, coupled with motor vehicle law enforcement, balanced against 4th and 5th amendment rights. In North Carolina, a DWI checkpoint is authorized not only by Michigan v. Sitz authority, but by our own statute, NCGS 20-16.3A Courts determine the legality of a checkpoint, initially, by looking at three areas. First, a checkpoint must have a legitimate purpose. Second, a checkpoint must be reasonable Finally, the intrusion into your individual rights must be minimal. Purpose- First, the court must determine the “primary...

Don’t be the Victim of a Victimless Crime. NC Marijuana Laws Part One.

North Carolina Drug laws are governed generally by NCGS chapter 90. The most common offenses charged are minor misdemeanor possession charges. However, possession of larger quantities of even victimless drugs such as marijuana can quickly escalate to a felony. In addition, North Carolina can levy an excise tax on possession of controlled substances (drugs) resulting in huge financial penalties even when the criminal charge is reduced or you are found not guilty. Many people now consider Marijuana to be a beneficial drug that has been slandered and made illegal for a variety of illegitimate reasons. While I share many of those beliefs, having a marijuana CHARGE on your permanent record can quickly turn a defendant from the victimless lawbreaker into the victim. Consequences of the crime can range from just a fine, to life changing incarceration, drug education classes, probation, and community service, as well as other penalties. But the most serious consequence is often the mark a conviction leaves on your record itself. Having a drug conviction on your permanent record can result in difficulty finding suitable employment, housing, and educational opportunities. It can even be difficult to get a job at “Wal-Mart with a weed conviction. In many cases, a felony conviction for drug possession, even marijuana, can trigger the same collateral consequences as a conviction for murder or manslaughter. The felony conviction can result in suspension or revocation of certain professional licenses, driving privileges, voting rights, right to sit on a jury, right to hold public office and important firearms rights. The North Carolina General Assembly, while not on the forefront of enlightened thought about all...

Bail/Bond

Bail Bonds Bail bonds help to assure a person’s appearance in court. A person who has been arrested for an offense and placed under a “secured bond” may be released from custody by putting up the full amount of the bond in cash, with the signature of a person who has enough property to cover the amount of the bond, or by a bail agent. Bail agents charge a non-refundable fee of up to 15 percent of the amount of the bond. Upon signing the bond, the bail agent becomes responsible for the defendant’s appearance in court and liable for the full amount of the bond. If the defendant appears in court as required and the case is disposed, the bond is void. If the defendant fails to appear in court, the bail agent must return the defendant to the court within 150 days or pay the full amount of the bond. This provides a strong financial incentive for the bail agent to do his or her job.If a bail agent is forced to forfeit on a bond, the bond amount is paid directly to North Carolina’s free public school system. Bail agents have certain expansive rights, but they are not above the law. They may use “reasonable force” to apprehend the principal including breaking and entering the residence to take custody, and even overcoming a third party with force (See State v. Mathis)  They may act in some ways like law enforcement, but they are not given all the power of a law enforcement agent. They cannot, for example, carry a gun onto school property, and apparently, they...

North Carolina Highway Patrol

The North Carolina State Highway Patrol’s primary mission is to reduce collisions and make the highways of North Carolina as safe as possible.  If you are reading this blog, though, your interaction with them was probably over a routine traffic matter, or speeding ticket, and you probably have a different opinion at the moment. I understand. Considering the fact that North Carolina has more miles of State and Federal roadways than any state, except Texas, the state has quite a large force of patrolman and patrolwomen. More than 1600.  These 1600 men and women cover almost 80,000 miles of roadways. In past years, the numbers of the Highway Patrol had been declining- the state stopped the new patrolmen training classes, and due to natural attrition and retiring officers, the numbers started to decline.  But, fear not- The patrol has started graduating new young troopers, and you will find them out in force on the states highways and byways. The NCSHP is divided into 8 “Troops” divided across the state. Here in the western portion of the state, we will mostly deal with Troop G, and occasionally the highway interdiction teams, specially trained patrolmen who’s primary job is drug interdiction. If you need assistance from the Highway Patrol while travelling, you can call the NCSHP by dialing *47 on your cell phone, (which is *-H-P) You can find the NCSHP’s official website HERE Regular Highway Patrol enforcement campaigns, such as “Booze It and Lose It”, “Click It or Ticket”, and especially those initiated through the Governors Highway Safety Program, can be found Here   And the link to my favorite Junior Brown...

Important Limit on Police Power to Seize Assets

Attorney General Eric Holder is barring local and state police from using federal law to seize cash, cars and other property without evidence that a crime occurred. The Post’s Robert O’Harrow Jr. explains the most sweeping check on police power to confiscate personal property since the seizures began three decades ago....