Road Rules

When a checkpoint isn't really a checkpoint, the constitutional forecast is cloudy

Mack's case went all the way to the Missouri Supreme Court, which in February 2002 reversed a Lincoln County Circuit Court ruling in upholding the arrest, based on the grounds that "the Troy checkpoint was intended to generate the suspicious conduct necessary to constitute individualized suspicion by deceiving drivers engaged in criminal activity into exiting the highway to avoid the checkpoint they thought would be at the next exit."

So the Collinsville P.D. would appear to be in the clear. Not so fast: The Mack ruling stands in direct conflict with a parallel Federal Circuit Court ruling in United States v. Green (2001), which found that a similar ruse checkpoint on Interstate 44 in Missouri fell under the purview of Edmond and was therefore unconstitutional.

"You've got a state supreme court decision saying it's legal and an Eighth Circuit ruling that says it's not," says Saint Louis University School of Law professor Roger Goldman. "Until it's resolved by the U.S. Supreme Court, you're going to have this sort of never-never land."

Jill Pearson

And that's bad news for motorists, says the ACLU's Yohnka.

"Where conflict exists, police are likely to push the envelope," says Yohnka. "Americans for years have understood that they have the right to travel freely without interference from police, without having to produce identification or without interruption. Those expectations have been seriously lowered these days."

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