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Checkpoint was properly administered in this case

Facts

On the evening of March 15, 2002, Eric Johnston drove his vehicle to where a driver’s license checkpoint was being maintained by the Leake County Sheriff’s Department at the intersection of Gunter and Salem Roads. Upon stopping at the checkpoint and relinquishing his license to the deputy to check its validity, the deputy was informed by the dispatcher that Johnston’s license had been suspended.

Johnston was then placed under arrest and was searched. The search revealed several syringes (.5 mm of methamphetamine) and a bag containing methamphetamine (3.32 grams). Johnston was then read his Miranda warning and charged with possession of a controlled substance.

Johnston was convicted of possession of methamphetamine and sentenced to 12 years. On appeal, he argued the roadblock was improper. MCOA affirmed.

Analysis

A. Checkpoint

Johnston argues that since a very minimal amount of citations were written as a consequence of that particular checkpoint and that since the deputies testified that the department had no written policies covering setting up roadblocks and the execution of such roadblocks then the roadblock was unconstitutional. He fails to assert how his constitutional rights were violated; he just claims they were.

In U.S. v. Martinez-Fuerte, 428 U.S. 543, (1976), the U.S. Supreme Court found highway law enforcement officer’s rights to stop, question and inspect to be more extensive at fixed checkpoints than for roving patrol stops. We view checkpoint stops in a different light because the subjective intrusion—the generating of concern or even fright on the part of lawful travelers—is appreciably less in the case of a checkpoint stop.

A balancing requirement originated in U.S. Supreme Court case Camara v. Municipal Court, 387 U.S. 523 (1967):

There are three requirements under Camara to validate a particular law enforcement practice involving a stop and limited detention: (1) existence of a strong public interest in maximizing success in combating the problem at hand; (2) an inability to achieve adequate result by relying on probable cause determinations; and (3) the “relatively limited invasion of the citizen’s privacy” involved in the procedure in question.

The purpose of the roadblock was to check licenses. It should be noted this court held 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. Therefore, there was a public concern served by this roadblock and thus served by the seizure.

Johnston was not singled out nor a victim of any unreasonable activity by the sheriff’s deputies. The checkpoint for the purpose of valid license checking was constitutional. This issue has no merit.

B. Evidence

Johnston contends that the only reason that the deputy patted him down, which lead to the discovery of the methamphetamine, was for the deputy’s safety and that since it was obvious no weapons were on Johnston’s person then the deputy should not have discovered the methamphetamine in Johnston’s pocket. He further asserts that he was never lawfully arrested and therefore any evidence obtained pursuant to an unlawful arrest should have been suppressed. He asserts that the search should have been limited to a search for weapons.

In order for an officer to make an arrest, he must first have probable cause. Probable cause exists where the facts and circumstances within the arresting officer’s knowledge and of which they had reasonably trustworthy information are sufficient in themselves to warrant a man of reasonable caution in the belief that an offense has been or is being committed.

The U.S. Supreme Court in U.S. v. Robinson, 414 U.S. 218, (1973), said that there is no violation of the Fourth Amendment when a person, placed under lawful arrest, is subjected to a full search of his person.

In Rankin v State, 636 So. 2d 652 (Miss. 1994), MSC said that a search incident to a valid arrest is not limited to a Terry type search.

In Ellis v. State, 573 So.2d 724 (Miss. 1990), our MSC held that since the police officer had probable cause to arrest the defendant, the officer was justified in searching for more than weapons, and the narrow limits of a Terry search did not apply.

The search conducted was incident to a lawful arrest as the deputy certainly had probable cause to believe Johnston was driving without a proper license. This issue is without merit.

 

https://courts.ms.gov/Images/Opinions/CO9596.pdf