When is a Police Roadblock Illegal?

         You have probably seen police roadblocks when you were out driving your car, and you may have even been stopped at one, but did you know that before the police are allowed to actually set up a roadblock they are first required to prepare written guidelines so that the officers conducting the roadblock do not violate motorists' rights by, for example, stopping motorists because of their race or ethnicity?


          In the case of State of Florida v. Jones, the Florida Supreme Court stated that "[w]ritten guidelines should cover in detail the procedures which field officers are to follow at the roadblock.  Ideally, these guidelines should set out with reasonable specificity procedures regarding the selection of vehicles, detention techniques, duty assignments, and the disposition of vehicles."  According to the United States Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Texas, when the police stop someone and that stop "is not based on objective criteria, the risk of arbitrary and abusive police practices exceeds tolerable limits."


          Seven years after the Jones case was decided, the case of Campbell v. State of Florida arose.  In the Campbell case, the Jacksonville Florida Sheriff's Office set up a roadblock to check for traffic violations.  The only written instructions for implementing the roadblock stated merely, "Stop motorists on Mandarin Rd. for a traffic safety check.  Have a motorcycle [with] radar on each end of check to monitor speed."  In addition to the written instructions, the officer in charge of the roadblock gave oral instructions to the officers who actually stopped the motorists.  One of the oral instructions was to stop every car passing through the roadblock.


         Things did not, however, go exactly according to plan.  Several times during the five-hour roadblock, traffic backed up which created a safety concern.  In response, the officers on scene used their discretion on different occasions to simply waive some cars through the roadblock while continuing to stop and check others.


          One of the motorists who was stopped was a man named Phillip Campbell.  When the police discovered that Campbell had a suspended driver's license, he was arrested and taken to the county jail where the police found cocaine and marijuana in one of his socks.  Campbell's lawyer later filed a motion to suppress requesting that the judge suppress the narcotics found in his sock because the roadblock violated the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution as well as the Jones decision.


          Campbell's case eventually reached the Florida Supreme Court, and that Court ended up siding with Campbell finding that "the limited police directives used here do not limit police discretion and fall short of the discretion-limiting written set of uniform guidelines specifically required by us in [the Jones case]."  The High Court continued on to say that "[i]n this country, the police are not vested with the general authority to set up 'routine' roadblocks at any time or place.  Rather, law enforcement was placed on notice by our holding in Jones that the stopping and detaining of a citizen is a serious matter that requires particularized advance planning and direction and strict compliance thereafter."


If you were arrested in West Palm Beach, Palm Beach, St. Lucie County, Martin County, Palm Beach County, Broward County, or Miami-Dade County, and you think your rights were violated, call me, attorney Ron Chapman, at 561-832-4348 to discuss your case and see how I might be able to help you.


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Desde 1990, el Sr. Chapman ha representado a personas que han sido acusadas de cometer delitos de varios tipos, tales como DUI, violencia doméstica, posesión de armas, posesión de drogas, eliminación de antecedentes penales, infracciones de tránsito, asesinato, homicidio involuntario, abuso infantil, delitos sexuales, abuso de personas mayores, apelaciones y violaciones de libertad condicional.
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