ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANT ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE
Karen M. Freeman-Wilson Mark A. Kopinski
Attorney General of Indiana South Bend, Indiana
Timothy W. Beam
Deputy Attorney General
SUPREME COURT OF INDIANA
STATE OF INDIANA, ) ) Appellant (Plaintiff Below ), ) No. 71S05-0102-CR-106 ) In the Supreme Court v. ) ) JARROD E. GERSCHOFFER, ) No. 71A05-0003-CR-116 ) In the Court of Appeals Appellee (Defendant Below ). )
March 5, 2002
Gerschoffer moved to suppress all evidence obtained from the checkpoint, claiming improper seizure
under both the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution
See footnote and Article 1, Section
11 of the Indiana Constitution.See footnote After a hearing, the trial court granted
the motion, holding that although the checkpoint satisfied the Fourth Amendment, the failure
to obtain a warrant was unreasonable under Article 1, Section 11.
The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that a sobriety checkpoint . . .
conducted absent probable cause or reasonable suspicion of illegal activity, constitutes an unreasonable
seizure as proscribed by Article 1, Section 11.
State v. Gerschoffer, 738
N.E.2d 713, 726 (Ind. Ct. App. 2000). We granted transfer to this
Court, thus vacating that opinion. 753 N.E.2d 6 (Ind. 2001).
The U.S. Supreme Court first suggested that roadblocks might satisfy the Fourth Amendment
when it held random and discretionary stops to check drivers licenses and vehicle
registrations unconstitutional in Delaware v. Prouse, 440 U.S. 648 (1979):
This holding does not preclude the . . . States from developing methods
for spot checks that involve less intrusion or that do not involve the
unconstrained exercise of discretion. Questioning of all oncoming traffic at roadblock-type stops
is one possible alternative. We hold only that persons in automobiles on
public roadways may not for that reason alone have their travel and privacy
interfered with at the unbridled discretion of police officers.
Id. at 663 (footnote omitted).
The same year, the Court identified three factors to weigh in assessing the
constitutionality of seizures less intrusive than traditional arrests: (1) the gravity of
the public concerns served by the seizure, (2) the degree to which the
seizure advances the public interest, and (3) the severity of the interference with
individual liberty. Brown v. Texas, 443 U.S. 47, 51 (1979) (random stop-and-identify
statute held unconstitutional). The Court went on to say that a central
concern in balancing these factors is assur[ing] that an individuals reasonable expectation of
privacy is not subject to arbitrary invasions at the unfettered discretion of officers
in the field. Id. Therefore, the seizure must be carried out
pursuant to a plan embodying explicit, neutral limitations on the conduct of individual
officers. Id. (citing Prouse, 440 U.S. at 663).
Seven years later, we applied these federal principles in a Fourth Amendment challenge
to a roadblock designed to check for licenses and registrations as well as
OWI. State v. Garcia, 500 N.E.2d 158, 159-61 (Ind. 1986), cert. denied,
481 U.S. 1014 (1987).
See footnote We held, three-to-two, that the OWI problem,
including under-age drinking, was grave enough to justify nontraditional enforcement methods.
at 161. The arrest rate and the obvious deterrent effect sufficiently advanced
the public interest. Id. at 162. The average stop was only
two or three minutes, and many people turned around and avoided the roadblock
after seeing it ahead, so the level of interference was acceptable. Id.
We also considered the degree of discretion involved. Based on a previously
communicated plan, one officer flagged vehicles over in blocks of five as soon
as the previous five were released. See id. at 160. An
officer then asked each driver to produce a license or registration while checking
for indications of OWI or underage drinking. See id. at 161.
This uniformly followed procedure imposed sufficiently explicit, neutral limitations upon the individual officers
to satisfy the Fourth Amendment. Id. at 162.
The U.S. Supreme Court took a similar approach and reached a similar conclusion
in Michigan Department of State Police v. Sitz, 496 U.S. 444 (1990).
Sitz challenged a roadblock procedure developed by a committee appointed under the authority
of the state police, comprised of representatives from state and local police forces,
state prosecutors, and a university transportation research institute. Id. at 447.
Under the procedure, all vehicles were stopped at the checkpoint for an average
of twenty-five seconds. Id. at 448. Only if the checkpoint officer
detected signs of intoxication would he or she ask for a license and
registration. Id. at 447.
Applying the Brown balancing test, the Sitz court held that brief, suspicionless seizures
at highway checkpoints for the purpose of combating drunk driving do not violate
the Fourth Amendment. Id. at 455; see also City of Indianapolis v.
Edmond, 531 U.S. 32, 34 (2000). It held, No one can seriously
dispute the magnitude of the drunken driving problem or the States interest in
eradicating it, and found the degree of intrusion as measured by duration of
the seizure and intensity of the questioning slight. Sitz, 496 U.S. at
451-52 (citing United States v. Martinez-Fuerte, 428 U.S. 543 (1976) (upholding border checkpoints
to detect illegal aliens)).
The Court distinguished roving police patrols whose approach might frighten motorists, especially those
traveling alone at night on remote roads, from checkpoints where drivers see others
being similarly stopped. Sitz, 496 U.S. at 453 (citing, inter alia, Martinez-Fuerte,
428 U.S. at 558). It also declared that nothing in Brown was
intended to shift the choice between reasonable law enforcement techniques from politically accountable
officials to the courts. Id.
The U.S. Supreme Court recently clarified federal constitutional limitations in City of Indianapolis
v. Edmond, 531 U.S. 32 (2000), a successful Fourth Amendment challenge to a
drug interdiction roadblock. The baseline rule is that a search or seizure
is ordinarily unreasonable absent individualized suspicion of criminal activity.
Edmond, 531 U.S.
at 37 (citing Chandler v. Miller, 520 U.S. 305, 308 (1997)). The
Court acknowledged that checkpoints sometimes pass constitutional muster even though they are not
based on individualized suspicion but distinguished its prior holdings in Martinez-Fuerte, Sitz, and
Prouse by saying, In none of these cases . . . did [the
Court] indicate approval of a checkpoint program whose primary purpose was to detect
evidence of ordinary criminal wrongdoing. Edmond, 531 U.S. at 38.
The key distinction between Sitz and Edmond is that sobriety checkpoints are designed
primarily to serve purposes closely related to . . . the necessity of
ensuring roadway safety. Edmond, 531 U.S. at 41. Narcotics checkpoints, on
the other hand, are not similarly directed at immediate, vehicle-bound threat[s] to life
and limb. Id. at 43.
Indianas founders left few clues about the formulation of Article 1, Section 11.
The 1816 constitutional convention adopted this section in remarkably short order with
no recorded debate, in nearly the same words we have today.
See footnote Moreover,
historical context offers only limited insight on the issue of roadblocks because [t]he
automobile has made an alteration in our way of life unforeseen and unforeseeable
by the Founding Fathers.
Williams v. State, 261 Ind. 547, 553, 307
N.E.2d 457, 461 (1974).
This is not to say that we are writing on a blank slate. We have previously held that Article 1, Section 11 must be liberally construed to protect Hoosiers from unreasonable police activity in private areas of their lives. Brown v. State, 653 N.E.2d 77 (Ind. 1995) (warrantless search of defendants car held unreasonable under Indiana Constitution). Rather than looking to federal requirements such as warrants and probable cause when evaluating Section 11 claims, we place the burden on the State to show that under the totality of the circumstances its intrusion was reasonable. Baldwin v. Reagan, 715 N.E.2d 332, 337 (Ind. 1999) (citing Brown, 653 N.E.2d at 79-80).
In Brown, we acknowledged the tension between multiple constitutional objectives. [I]t may
safely be said that Hoosiers regard their automobiles as private and cannot easily
abide their uninvited intrusion. Brown, 653 N.E.2d at 80. On the
other hand, Indiana citizens have been concerned not only with personal privacy but
also with safety, security, and protection from crime. Mitchell v. State, 745
N.E.2d 775, 786 (Ind. 2001).
We note the existence of some evidence that sobriety checkpoints can be effective.
A 1999 study concluded that an extensively publicized, statewide checkpoint program in
Tennessee reduced alcohol-related crashes by more than twenty percent, the equivalent of nine
fatal accidents per month. John H. Lacey et al., Evaluation of Checkpoint
Tennessee: Tennessees Statewide Sobriety Checkpoint Program, Technical Report Prepared for U.S. Department
of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (Jan. 1999), at http://www.nhtsa.dot.gov/people/injury/research/ChekTenn/ChkptTN.html.
In the instant case, the Court of Appeals said, A suspicionless roadblock seizure is inherently random, arbitrary and capricious, and there is nothing in the text or original meaning of Article 1, Section 11 to suggest that the framers would have considered such a seizure as anything other than unreasonable. Gerschoffer, 738 N.E.2d at 723-24. We have concluded otherwise.
A minimally intrusive roadblock designed and implemented on neutral criteria that safely and
effectively targets a serious danger specific to vehicular operation is constitutionally reasonable, unlike
the random and purely discretionary stops we have disapproved. See Baldwin v.
Reagan, 715 N.E.2d at 337 (requiring individualized suspicion of a seat belt law
violation before stopping a motorist). As Professor Akhil Reed Amar has said,
A broader search is sometimes better--fairer, more regular, more constitutionally reasonable--if it reduces
the opportunities for official arbitrariness, discretion, and discrimination. . . . The broader,
more evenhanded search is sometimes more constitutionally reasonable even if the probabilities are
lower for each citizen searched. Akhil Reed Amar, Fourth Amendment First Principles,
107 Harv. L. Rev. 757, 809 (1994) (arguing for a shift from traditional
federal search and seizure jurisprudence to an approach that focuses on constitutional reasonableness).
We therefore join those jurisdictions rejecting the contention that all roadblocks are per
se violations of state constitutional requirements.
See footnote The question then becomes whether this
particular roadblock was conducted in a constitutionally reasonable manner.
Neutral Plan Approved by Appropriate Officials. Some states have looked more favorably
upon roadblocks staged pursuant to formal guidelines adopted at an appropriate policy-making level.
For example, in Boisvert, 671 A.2d at 837, a Connecticut court noted
with approval that the roadblock complied with state police guidelines promulgated by the
public safety commissioner. These guidelines required, among other things, advance approval by
ranking officers; a careful choice of location, date and time after considering many
factors, including the safety of the public and those conducting the operation and
the potential inconvenience to the public; advance publicity; and assurance to drivers that
the stop was routine. Id.; see also Trumble, 483 N.E.2d 1102 (roadblock
that complied with state police guidelines was a reasonable seizure).
We agree that a properly approved, neutral plan would help support the reasonableness
of the sobriety checkpoint. Here, Sergeant Gary Coffie, the officer in charge
for the State Police, testified that he followed written federal and state police
guidelines. (R. at 85-86, 100-01.) Those guidelines are not part of
the record, however, so we cannot assess their efficacy.
Objective, Location and Timing. A seizure is not reasonable unless it is
well calculated to effectuate its purpose. Garcia, 500 N.E.2d at 167 (Shepard,
J., dissenting). Here, the connection between the vehicular threat of OWI and
the objectives, location and timing of the roadblock is tenuous at best.
A press release indicated that this checkpoint was intended to catch drunk drivers,
seat belt and child restraint violations, and other violations. (R. at 181.)
Corporal Timothy Williams, the officer in charge for the Mishawaka Police Department,
indicated that the site selection was intended to reduce speeding and cruising.
(R. at 146.) He said, [I]ts a good way to kind of
slow traffic down, make sure everybody is doing what theyre supposed to.
Williams also said that another goal was [t]o make sure . . .
everybodys got all the proper information with them, including [l]icense, registration, insurance information.
(R. at 146.) The Vermont Supreme Court once noted, and we
agree, that [t]he thought that an American can be compelled to show his
papers before exercising his right to walk the streets, drive the highways or
board the trains is repugnant to American institutions and ideals. Record, 548
A.2d at 426 (quoting State v. Kirk, 493 A.2d 1271, 1285 (N.J. Super.
Ct. App. Div. 1985)).
Here, the State has offered a montage of objectives, including the generic law
enforcement goal of mak[ing] sure everybody is doing what theyre supposed to.
(R. at 146.) This sounds more like a generalized dragnet than a
minimally intrusive, neutral effort to remove impaired drivers from the roadways before they
The evenings statistics reinforce this conclusion. Seventy stops produced fourteen traffic arrests
and thirty-four warnings. (R. at 177.) Only two citations were for
See footnote (
The locations selection casts further doubt on whether this roadblock was sufficiently related
to the public danger of drunk driving. The officers in charge sensibly
chose a well-lighted, reasonably busy area that was amenable to traffic control.
(R. at 145-46.) They chose this particular site partially because they had
conducted a checkpoint in the same location the previous winter and wanted to
compare results. (R. at 136.)
When asked the reasons for the site selection, however, neither officer indicated that
drunk driving had been a particular problem at this location. (R. at
103-04, 145-46.) Corporal Williams said only that a high volume of general
traffic violations occurred in the area. (R. at 145-46.)
The officers operated the roadblock from 11:30 p.m. until 1:30 a.m. because traffic
is easier to handle; its not exactly that we were going to get
a lot of [OWI] arrests. (R. at 107-08.) Also, businesses were
closed at that hour and shoppers were no longer out, but it was
still early enough for a substantial amount of traffic. (R. at 108.)
Finally, the timing was convenient based upon officer shift changes. (Id.)
As with location, the State did not link the timing to the
danger being addressed.
To be constitutionally reasonable, the location and timing of sobriety checkpoints should take
into account police officer safety, public safety, and public convenience. The roadblock
should also effectively target the public danger of impaired driving. Here, the
State did not offer any evidence of objective considerations such as an unusually
high rate of OWI-related accidents or arrests in the chosen area. The
State has therefore not shown that this roadblock was sufficiently related to the
legitimate law enforcement purpose of combating drunk driving.
Police Discretion. Many states consider the degree of discretion exercised by field
officers conducting the roadblock a critical factor. See, e.g., Downey, 945 S.W.2d
at 111-12 (requiring that Tennessee roadblocks be established and operated in accordance with
predetermined guidelines and supervisory authority that minimize the risk of arbitrary intrusions on
individuals and limit the discretion of law enforcement officers at the scene).
Here, Sergeant Coffie flagged in five vehicles at a time, then allowed other
traffic to flow through. (R. at 90-91.) As soon as all
five vehicles were cleared, Coffie flagged in five more, without regard to vehicle
type. (R. at 91, 122-24.) This procedure satisfied the Fourth Amendment
in Garcia, 500 N.E.2d at 161, and it seems a reasonably neutral and
Other procedures, however, were not as carefully controlled. Aside from being told
to be professional and courteous, officers received no specific directive on how to
approach and screen motorists. (R. at 115, 150.) Each individual officer
was therefore allowed to decide whether to immediately request license, registration, and/or insurance
information from all drivers or only from some of them based on an
appearance of impairment or other grounds. (R. at 119, 136, 150.)
No standardized instructions were given to ensure that officers addressed drivers in a
See footnote (R. at 119-20.) Furthermore, each officer had the discretion
to decide how many and what type of sobriety tests to perform if
he or she detected alcohol. (R. at 96, 150.)
The State has therefore not shown that it provided sufficiently explicit guidance to
ensure against arbitrary or inconsistent actions by the screening officers. This very
important factor weighs against the reasonableness of the roadblock.
Degree of Intrusion. If the officer approaching a car did not detect
any violations, the length of detention averaged four minutes. (R. at 130.)
In Garcia, stops approximating two to three minutes satisfied the Fourth Amendment.
500 N.E.2d at 162. In Sitz, the average detention period was
only twenty-five seconds. 496 U.S. at 448.
The reasonableness of this detention period is questionable. Four minutes could certainly
seem like a very long time to a law-abiding citizen pulled off the
road for observation and questioning by the police. In light of other
similar cases where the intrusion has been much briefer, it is not clear
that a well-trained officer needs this much time to assess driver sobriety.
See id.; see also Trumble, 483 N.E.2d at 1105.
In evaluating the degree of intrusion, we also consider whether the roadblock was
avoidable. The more avoidable a roadblock is, the less it interferes with
the liberty of individual drivers. A roadblock need hardly be altogether voluntary,
however, or it would have little enforcement or deterrent value.
Because the checkpoint was near an intersection and only cars coming from the
direction of the intersection were stopped, drivers could have theoretically turned and avoided
the checkpoint. (R. at 184.) Sergeant Coffie testified, however, that a
six-by-five-foot sign announcing the sobriety checkpoint was illuminated only when headlights hit it.
(R. at 112.) The sign was propped against a squad car
that blocked the left lane where the checkpoint began, so as to channel
cars into single file in the right lane. (R. at 111-13, 184.)
Sergeant Coffie conceded that because the only signage was past the roadblocks entry
point, approaching drivers may not have realized the activity ahead (red lights and
flares) was a checkpoint until the point of no return, especially if larger
vehicles blocked their view. (R. at 113-14.) The lack of demonstrated
avoidability therefore weighs slightly against the State.
Safe Conditions. The State offered testimony that the checkpoint was located in a well-lighted area, where vehicles could be pulled off the roadway into an adjacent parking lot without impeding traffic. This weighs in favor of constitutionality.
Effectiveness. The officers stopped seventy of the 198 cars funneled through the checkpoint. (R. at 127.) Fourteen arrests resulted, of which two were for OWI. See footnote (R. at 129.) This seems a fairly low percentage, especially considering that officers administered a dozen preliminary breath tests.See footnote (R. at 178.) Both Sergeant Coffie and Corporal Williams conceded that roving patrols produce more OWI arrests than do roadblocks. (R. at 105, 148.)
Apprehension rates are not, however, the end of the question. As Tennessees
experience proves, roadblocks can effectively deter OWI, such that even a modest arrest
rate may simply reflect the fact that advance publicity scared those who would
drink and drive off the roads.
See Lowe, 337 S.E.2d at 277
([T]he deterrent effect . . . is obvious; such a visible project is
bound to increase the perceived risk of arrest in the minds of those
drunk drivers who are never arrested.).
Here, however, we have no evidence from which to infer that the low
apprehension rate was the effect of a successful media blitz. Sergeant Coffie
sent a press release to four television stations two days before the checkpoint
date, (R. at 94-95), but sent nothing to radio stations, local newspapers, or
other print media, (R. at 106-07). No one ever determined whether the
pending roadblock was actually reported by the four stations notified. (R. at
Law enforcement agencies cannot control what the media chooses to report, of course,
and may not have funds to pay for publicity. Here, however, some
major news sources received no notification at all, and we do not know
if television stations carried stories on the planned roadblocks. We cannot infer,
absent any proven publicity, that this checkpoint effectively deterred potential offenders.See footnote
Summary. In light of the above factors, with particular emphasis on the
high level of officer discretion and the very weak link between the public
danger posed by OWI and the objectives, location and timing of the checkpoint,
the State did not meet its burden to show that this roadblock was
constitutionally reasonable under Article 1, Section 11. The trial court therefore correctly
suppressed the fruit of this seizure.
Sullivan, Boehm, and Rucker, JJ., concur.
Dickson, J., concurs and dissents with separate opinion.
APPEAL FROM THE ST. JOSEPH SUPERIOR COURT
The Honorable R. W. Chamblee, Judge
Cause No. 71D08-9906-DF-686
March 5, 2002