Roadblock for drivers license and vehicle registration is constitutional


In 1995, Simpson County law enforcement officers were conducting a routine roadblock to check such items as proper drivers licenses and vehicle registration. One of the officers participating in the roadblock testified that, when he approached Howard Briggs‘s vehicle at the roadblock, he smelled the odor of alcohol emanating from Briggs’s person.

Upon further investigation, the officer determined that there was reasonable ground to believe that Briggs may have been intoxicated to a sufficient to degree to constitute a criminal violation. As a result, he placed Briggs in his vehicle, transported him to the local jail, and administered a chemical breath analysis test commonly called the intoxilizer test to determine Briggs’s blood alcohol content. The test results showed .211 one-hundredths percent blood alcohol concentration, well above the legal limit.

Briggs was convicted of felony DUI, third offense and sentenced to three years. On appeal, he argued the roadblock was unconstitutional. MCOA affirmed.


Briggs claims that the roadblock at which he was detained was not being conducted in the manner approved by the U.S. Supreme Court in Michigan v. Sitz, 496 U.S. 444 (1990), in that there were no formally approved procedures in place.

The State arguably has an interest in ensuring that drivers of vehicles are properly licensed and that vehicles are properly registered and periodically inspected. The interest is not the same as that of keeping intoxicated operators off the roads, but it is nevertheless a legitimate state interest. The issue becomes, therefore, whether a roadblock intended principally to detect unlicenced drivers or improperly registered and uninspected vehicles is a constitutionally permissible undertaking.

We find nothing in Sitz to suggest that it is not. In fact, every indication is to the contrary. It is the issue of (a) roadblock-type checkpoints where every vehicle is stopped versus (b) random stops of individual vehicles not under any suspicion that seems to serve as the dividing line between constitutionally-permissible police activity and unreasonable intrusions into the personal security of motorists.

We decline to hold that law enforcement roadblocks of this nature are, as a general proposition, unconstitutional invasions of the personal security from unreasonable seizure afforded motorists under the Fourth Amendment.