Checkpoint for drivers license and insurance does not violate the 4th amendment


In 2019, Stephen Borsi along with his passenger, Christopher Hathaway, was stopped by Mississippi Highway Patrol (MHP) at a safety checkpoint on Highway 80 in Rankin County, Mississippi. The MHP’s general practice was to stop all vehicles that passed through the checkpoint unless traffic became too heavy. Immediately, while Borsi was producing the driver’s license, Trooper Willard Holifield smelled the presence of burnt marijuana emitting from Borsi’s vehicle.

Borsi admitted that he had been smoking marijuana about two hours earlier at his campsite but later testified that he felt threatened to tell the truth or he would be going to jail. It is uncontested that Holifield had not advised Borsi of his Miranda rights before this exchange took place.

Trooper Ivana Williams then administered a field sobriety test, which Borsi failed. Holifield questioned Borsi and Hathaway again in order to see if their original story changed. Holifield testified that Borsi admitted he had bought $50 worth of marijuana, and he and Hathaway both admitted to smoking it at Borsi’s camper about two hours prior to being stopped at the checkpoint.

In the arrest report, Holifield noted that Borsi had bloodshot eyes and that his pupils were kind of wide; Borsi was kind of sluggish, and his speech was a little slow, and you could tell he was obviously unstable. Holifield then arrested Borsi and placed him in his patrol car.

It is unclear from the record exactly when Holifield collected a partially burned marijuana cigarette from underneath Borsi’s front passenger seat. This cigarette tested positive for marijuana. Borsi also gave permission for the collection of a urine sample just over half an hour after the initial stop which was positive for tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

Borsi pled no contest and was convicted of DUI and sentenced to 48 hours in jail. On appeal, he argued 1) there was no probable cause or reasonable suspicion to stop his vehicle on the night he was arrested, 2) his Miranda rights were violated, and 3) he was not impaired.  MCOA affirmed.


A. Checkpoint

MSC said in McLendon that the State’s interest in conducting a roadblock with the primary purpose of checking driver’s licenses and insurance cards substantially outweighs the minimal intrusion of a driver’s individual liberty, and the roadblock does not violate the Fourth Amendment or the search and seizure provision of the State constitution.

The roadblock served public concerns: officers ultimately seized Borsi while he was driving under the influence where MHP troopers consistently and indiscriminately stopped every vehicle at the roadblock, and Borsi was not subjected to a random stop or an unbridled officer’s discretion.

Holifield testified that the purpose of the roadblock was to find those that are driving without licenses, suspended licenses, no license, insurance, seat belts, as well as outstanding warrants. We find this reason to be appropriate for a roadblock.

Additionally, there was testimony that it was the general practice of the MHP to stop all cars that passed through the checkpoint unless traffic became too heavy. There is no indication in the record that the MHP deviated from its general practice on the night in question.

B. Miranda Rights

Borsi also maintains that he was subjected to custodial interrogation in violation of his Miranda rights. It is unclear exactly when Holifield read or gave Borsi his Miranda rights. Holifield stated that he did not do so immediately after Borsi was stopped at the roadblock, nor did he do so at the time of the arrest.

Holifield agreed with defense counsel at trial that Miranda warnings were given at “the very end of the whole deal.” Whether Borsi’s Miranda rights were violated depends on whether he was in custody and being interrogated at the time the alleged incriminating statement was made. MSC said in Greenlee that a person’s Miranda rights are not triggered by general on the scene questioning and/or any voluntary statement.

MSC also said in Wilder, 347 So. 2d 520 (Miss. 1977), that Miranda warnings are applicable to custodial interrogation, that is, questioning initiated by law enforcement officers after a person has been taken into custody or otherwise deprived of his freedom in any significant way. While it appears that Borsi’s stop may have turned custodial prior to his arrest, his initial statement that he had smoked marijuana two hours before he was stopped occurred in the first moments of the investigation of the stop, and no Miranda warnings were required at that point.

C. Under the influence

Borsi argued he was not under the influence of any kind of marijuana other than CBD and that he was not impaired. He argues that his capacity for clarity and control was not diminished and that he was not too impaired to drive when he encountered the roadblock.

Borsi misunderstands what the State was required to prove under the statute—not his level of impairment, but whether he was under the influence.

In Heidelberg, Heidelberg was convicted under section 63- 11-30(1)(a), which makes it unlawful for a person to drive under the influence of intoxicating liquor. We held that a conviction for driving under influence did not require proof that alcohol impaired a defendant’s ability to drive—only that he was driving a motor vehicle while he was under influence of intoxicating liquor.

To compare, Borsi was convicted under section 63-11-30(1)(c), which makes it unlawful for a person to drive under the influence of any drug or controlled substance. Given the similar wording of these sections of the statute, we do not find that a different test should be applied.