Checkpoint is legal and has valid purpose


In 2004, the Neshoba County Sheriff’s Department established a driver’s license checkpoint at the intersection of Road 147 and County Road 604, during the daytime hours. Terry Hampton stopped at the checkpoint and was asked for his driver’s license by Deputy Sheriff Herbert Johnson, to which he told Johnson he did not have a license.

Johnson testified that he was outside the automobile, standing above Hampton as he sat in the driver’s seat, and that he observed an open twelve ounce beer bottle and what he thought to be a marijuana cigarette in Hampton’s left shirt pocket, as well as what he believed to be crack cocaine. He also observed that Hampton’s eyes were very red and that there was a strong smell of alcohol coming from the vehicle.

When questioned about whether he had been drinking, Hampton admitted that he had drunk three beers at the casino and was drinking the one that was open in the vehicle. Johnson asked Hampton to exit the vehicle and he was then placed under arrest for a possible DUI. Following the arrest, Johnson conducted a search of Hampton at which time he observed one marijuana cigarette and two off-white rock substances (.38 grams) which appeared to be crack cocaine in Hampton’s left shirt pocket.

Johnson called Narcotics Officer Richard Sistrunk to come assist with the removal of the items found in Hampton’s shirt pocket. Sistrunk testified that he observed two off-white rock-like substances in Hampton’s shirt pocket, as well as a green leafy-type substance.

Hampton was convicted of possession of cocaine and sentenced to four years. On appeal, he argued the purpose of the checkpoint was for general law enforcement and was not precisely specified. MCOA affirmed.


The U.S. Supreme Court established a balancing requirement for law enforcement’s stops and the limited detention involved with checkpoints versus roving patrol stops in Camara v. Municipal Court of San Francisco, 387 U.S. 523 (1967). Additionally, the U.S. Supreme Court held in United States v. Martinez-Fuerte, 428 U.S. 543 (1976), that fixed checkpoints by law enforcement generate considerably less concern or fright by lawful travelers due to their subjective intrusion; therefore, the court will review such procedures under a different light than that of roving patrol stops.

Therefore, we must apply the three requirements established by the Camara court to find a checkpoint by law enforcement valid. The requirements are as follows: (1) existence of a strong public interest in maximizing success in combating the problem at hand, (2) an inability to achieve adequate results by relying on probable cause determinations, and (3) the relatively limited invasion of the citizen’s privacy involved in the procedure in question.

We said in Johnston that in applying the Camara standards that required stops in these situations for the purpose of checking valid driver’s license would be reasonable for purposes of the Fourth Amendment.

Hampton submits that the checkpoint conducted by the Neshoba County Sheriff’s Department was unreasonable because its purpose was general law enforcement and was not precisely specified. We disagree.

Deputy Sheriff Johnson testified that the purpose of the checkpoint was to check for driver’s license. Narcotics Officer Sistrunk also testified that the purpose of the checkpoint was checking driver’s license, insurance, and tags. Additionally, both officers testified that the checkpoint was approved by Chief Deputy Wyatt Wadell; though there was conflicting testimony as to the location and time that approval was obtained, the trial court did not find that critical and neither do we.

The facts of the present case are similar to those in Dixon, where Dixon was stopped at a checkpoint in Greene County and arrested for possible DUI. Dixon argued the checkpoint was unreasonable and in violation of his Fourth Amendment rights; therefore, the results of the Intoxilyzer should have been suppressed from the evidence at trial.

We found in Dixon that the purpose of the checkpoint was to check for valid tags, inspection stickers, license, and traffic violations. Additionally, all vehicles were required to stop at the checkpoint, although no log was maintained of the activity or duration of the checkpoint, as was the case with the Neshoba County checkpoint in the present matter. Thus, we found the checkpoint to be reasonable and that there had been no violation of Dixon’s constitutional rights.

Following our previous holding in Briggs that the State does arguably have an interest in seeing that drivers of vehicles are properly registered and in making sure vehicles are properly registered and inspected, we found that Dixon had not shown that the checkpoint was conducted in any unreasonable manner or was overly intrusive.

Two Neshoba County Sheriff’s Department officers testified that the purpose of the roadblock was to check for valid driver’s licenses and we find, as we did in Briggs and Dixon, that the checkpoint was reasonable and had a valid purpose. Additionally, we find that substantial credible evidence exists to support the trial court’s admission of the cocaine into evidence, and we will not disturb its findings. Accordingly, this issue is without merit.