Appeals Court Says Trinidad Roadblocks Unconstitutional

Photo courtesy of
‘Hospitality Island’
courtesy of ‘Justin S. Campbell’

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit today rejected the ruling of a lower court that last summer’s police roadblocks in Trinidad were constitutional. The case has been returned to the lower court for further review, so we’ve not seen the last of it. You can read the court’s whole opinion (PDF) via the Pacer system. Councilman Phil Mendelsohn said in an email statement this afternoon, “It is unfortunate that the District’s Attorney General was so wrong to insist that the roadblocks were constitutional. However, today’s decision is no surprise given that the DC Court of Appeals came to the same conclusion regarding roadblocks – ironically, also in Trinidad – in 1991.”

The Court’s opinion today is largely based on an important case concerning police checkpoints decided by the Supreme Court in 2000: City of Indianapolis vs. Edmond. Here, I quote from the finding: “But the Court stressed that “[w]e have never approved a checkpoint program whose primary purpose was to detect evidence of ordinary criminal wrongdoing.” Edmond, 531 U.S. at 41. The Court then concluded that “[b]ecause the primary purpose of the Indianapolis checkpoint program is ultimately indistinguishable from the general interest in crime control, the
checkpoints violate the Fourth Amendment.” Id. at 48. It is this rule which governs the present case, and as the purpose of the NSZ checkpoint program is not immediately distinguishable from the general interest in crime control, appellants’ argument that the seizures were unconstitutional appears headed for ultimate victory.”

I live and work in the District of Columbia. I write at We Love DC, a blog I helped start, I work at Technolutionary, a company I helped start, and I’m happy doing both. I enjoy watching baseball, cooking, and gardening. I grow a mean pepper, keep a clean scorebook, and wash the dishes when I’m done. Read Why I Love DC.

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