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Avoiding a checkpoint allows officers to stop vehicle without reasonable suspicion

Facts

James T. Britain disregarded a roadway safety checkpoint in Meridian, Mississippi, and led sheriff’s officers on a brief high speed chase that resulted in Britain’s arrest and the discovery of a firearm. He was convicted of possessing a firearm after a felony conviction, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1) and sentenced to 27 months in the BOP. On appeal, he argued the checkpoint was invalid and he drove in a lane that was not part of the checkpoint. The 5th affirmed.

Analysis

Britain first contends the checkpoint was unconstitutional because its primary purpose was for general crime control and it was overly intrusive. But, the record shows that the checkpoint served a legitimate programmatic purpose closely related to the necessity of ensuring roadway safety and problems peculiar to the dangers presented by vehicles. See Burgos.

Britain also contends he drove in a right turn lane not encompassed by the checkpoint, and the officers otherwise lacked justification to stop him. The court, however, found that the checkpoint’s scope included the right turn lane, and Britain has not pointed to any evidence undermining that factual finding.

Therefore, when Britain attempted to evade the checkpoint by making a right turn, the officers did not need reasonable suspicion to stop him. We said in U.S. v. Hasette, 898 F.2d 994 (5th Cir. 1990) that a U-turn or a ‘turn-around’ in front of a checkpoint is tantamount to a stop at the checkpoint itself.

 

https://www.ca5.uscourts.gov/opinions/unpub/21/21-60692.0.pdf