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Checkpoint for license and insurance is constitutional

Facts

In 2016, Collins P.D. set up a checkpoint for drivers for safety purposes and were stopping every vehicle. Albert Stewart pulled up to the safety checkpoint in a gray Dodge pickup and after some delay handed Officer Bruce McDonald his driver’s license with his left hand. Stewart’s right hand was resting on his middle console. McDonald testified that Stewart was acting very nervous and Officer Eric Banks testified that he could see Stewart holding something in his right hand that looked like a bag of dope.

McDonald walked back to Stewart and twice asked Stewart what he had in his hand. Stewart responded nothing twice. McDonald testified that he then started reaching for his gun because he thought Stewart might have had a weapon in his right hand. At that point, Stewart peeled away quickly in his truck. McDonald fired one shot, hitting Stewart’s left rear tire.

A short high speed chase ensued with Stewart violating several traffic laws before stopping approximately two and a half miles away after the left rear tire of his truck fell off, exposing his wheel. Both Officers Eric Banks and Joseph Barnes testified that after Stewart stopped, they saw evidence of what looked like powder and rock cocaine loose on the floorboard of Stewart’s truck. Stewart’s floorboard did not contain any of the white substances at the checkpoint.  Stewart was convicted of felony fleeing and possession of cocaine and sentenced to eight years. On appeal, he argued the checkpoint was unconstitutional. MSC affirmed.

Analysis

Stewart argued that the State must show that the roadblock was not set up just to harass citizens. In McLendon, we previously held that a roadblock with the primary purpose of checking drivers’ licenses and insurance cards is constitutional. At trial, Banks testified that he and two other officers had been conducting a safety checkpoint and were checking licenses and tags.

McDonald testified that when Stewart pulled up to the checkpoint, McDonald asked for his driver’s license. McDonald’s body camera video shows that Stewart opened the door to his truck and told the officer that he was looking for his license. McDonald additionally testified that the officers were stopping every vehicle that came through the checkpoint that night. This court also said in McLendon that roadblocks are constitutional when law enforcement officers routinely stop every vehicle.

 

https://courts.ms.gov/Images/Opinions/CO143708.pdf