Check out this Youtube video:
It’s interesting because a person who is clearly not a lawyer is asserting that regulatory checkpoints are somehow a violation of the Fourth Amendment. The state laws may vary, but the federal constitutional laws permit DUI checkpoints. See Michigan Department of State Police v. Sitz. Some states, like North Carolina, have statutes that permit these checkpoints to boil over into regulatory violations (insurance, registration, etc.). The expansion of Sitz into these areas has not been readily tested in the federal courts, but would seem to be a valid exercise of police power under Sitz as long as they were done pursuant to specific regulations or, in North Carolina’s case, statutes.
So, here’s the question. Why put up a fuss? Sure, the Fourth Amendment protects you from unreasonable searches and seizures, but not from reasonable ones. Is it not reasonable to stop someone to see if they have a license? Is it not reasonable to stop someone to see if their vehicle was in compliance with the motor vehicle code? Is it not reasonable to stop someone to see if they’re impaired? Certainly it is. This is what people like the kid on this video seem to forget: the Constitution protects you from unreasonable searches, not all searches. This is why there is a Terry stop. Terry v. Ohio said that a cop can stop you on reasonable suspicion rather than probable cause, and search you based on a need to protect himself from violence. Why? Because it is reasonable.
Similarly, police do not need to get a warrant when a woman is screaming that someone is trying to kill her (although the French police waited hours at the Bataclan because the bad guys had guns). American police can enter under the exigent circumstances doctrine. That doctrine realizes that sometimes there just is no time to wait to find a judge and get a warrant. That’s reasonable.
And in that unusual situation where police go overboard and violate a person’s rights at a traffic checkpoint (by making them get out of the car when there is no reasonable suspicion, or detaining them for fun), then there are legal remedies available after the incident is over. Getting into it with the cops is sure to end badly.
What does it accomplish for us to hassle police officers about the legality of the stop. They are not standing out there in the cold getting a stiffy thinking about arresting someone for a loud muffler or a registration that is expired by two days. They’re out there looking for hazards to other drivers. They deserve some respect, and they should be able to avoid hassles like this.
In fact, it is a good thing I was not the cop in this video as I am reasonably sure this kid would be speaking with a lisp now.