The Slow Death of the Fourth Amendment

Posted by Lawrence Taylor on August 12th, 2008

The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution protects American citizens from being subjected to police intrusions without "probable cause".  The Michigan Supreme Court held that DUI roadblocks violated this constitutional protection.  On appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, however, that decision was reversed. 

In a 5-4 decision, the Court found a "DUI exception" to the Fourth Amendment.  Although admittedly a violation of the Fourth Amendment, Chief Justice Rehnquist wrote, the "minimal intrusions" into citizens' privacy was  "outweighed" by the governmental interest in apprehending drunk drivers.  Sitz v. Michigan

I've often reminded readers of this blog that we are a nation of legal precedent:  once a legal doctrine is adopted by the courts in a specific situation, it is thereafter applied in a broader context.  The danger of the Sitz decision goes far beyond the DUI roadblock situation:  if  police can stop you without reason for possible drunk driving today, then they can stop you for any reason tommorrow.  (See Sobriety Checkpoints: The Slippery Slope.)  

Community Declares War on Crime

Mayor issues curfew order

Helena, Ark.  Aug. 7  -  Mayor James Valley Thursday issued an executive order declaring an emergency curfew in certain sections of Helena-West Helena effective immediately.

In his order, Valley states the city has the duty to provide protection for its citizens and visitors and that certain areas of the city have been “under siege” with repeated gunfire, loitering, drug dealing and other general mayhem.

Valley has ordered H–WH officers to treat the “curfew zone” as a “zero tolerance zone”, which means that no loitering, “hanging out” will be permitted. All foot traffic, bicycle, horseback, moped, motorcycle, riding mower, golf cart or other mode of transportation will be subject to stop and investigation. (Emphasis added)

And this is how it starts….

(Thanks to David O'Shea)

  • koivisto

    I would like to see this in Chicago, NYC, LA, in fact every large city in the USA. I am joking of course. This reminds me of fixing a problem by controlling the symptom rather than the cause, and what happens? It never gets fixed. One can apply the same logic to DUI. Arresting mass amounts of people for DUI doesn’t get to the cause of DUI, it just tries to control the end result or symptom. The same logic applies to to the oldest profession in the world, prostitution, and how is that working out? DUI should not be illegal, but if you do cause any damages or death, you will be held liable in court for any damages, up to and including murder. Of course states would lose their revenue, but the guilty parties would be held to justice as necessary. In 2006 there were over 1.4 million violent assaults, 17,000 murders, and 92,000 rapes, and these were the reported ones. I implore people to see things for what they are and put things into perspective.

  • Nelson Donnell

    It’s all about big government maintaining its capability to reign over the masses and collect revenue from the sheep.

    Driver licensing and regulation is one big racket that government uses to collect millions of monetized accounting unit dollars annually. If there was no money involved, you wouldn’t see any of these prior restraint and preemptive strikes on liberty occurring at all.

    It’s all about power being kept in the hands of a group of organized liars, killers and thieves called government. Government has no duty to protect anyone and their property, yet the public still wants to believe the lie that government does have a duty to protect. Read Bowers v. Devito, 686 F.2d 616.

  • joe

    Citizens sometimes have a disconnect between Constitutional rights and seemingly smaller issues such as DUI traffic stops. However, you’re right in asserting that rights are slowly eroded over time, never taken away all at once.

  • Bill

    This is the logical result of the wars on some drugs and DUI. It is not going to get better, it will only get worse. We are well on our way to becoming a Socialistic Police State. What is amazing to me is most Americans cheer this nonsense.

  • lynzww

    Please help. I am new to the site, and not sure how it works. I have a friend that was sentenced to a 25 year sentence for aggravated DUI. She plead guilty in open court. She had no prior felonies and only one previous DUI. We are trying to save money for post conviction relief, but in Mississippi there is less than a 1 in 10 chance for sentence reduction.