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Court rules checkpoint unconstitutional

January 1, 2007
Indiana police officers are not allowed to target specific people when setting up roadblocks and checkpoints, ruled the Indiana Court of Appeals. The court overturned a trial court's denial of the defendant's motion to suppress evidence from two police roadblocks created after breaking up a party.

In Kenneth Scott King v. State of Indiana, No. 58A01-0704-CR-159, King was at a party to which the police were called. After breaking up the party, police set up two checkpoints to search for impaired drivers - one on private property where the party was and one at the end of the driveway on the public street. All vehicles were required to drive through these two points in order to leave the premises.

An officer believed King, who was slowly driving his car, was trying to avoid the checkpoints and stopped him. After administering a portable breath test, King was charged with misdemeanor operating a vehicle while intoxicated and operating a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol content of .08 or higher.

King filed a motion to suppress evidence obtained during the checkpoint stop, which the trial court denied.

The Court of Appeals ruled the checkpoints were unconstitutional under Article I, Section 11 of the Indiana Constitution. The appellate court applied the standard derived from State v. Gerschoffer, 763 N.E.2d 960 (Ind. 2002) to determine whether the roadblocks were constitutionally allowed.

The court found the state failed to provide evidence in support of five out of six of the factors that weigh on the reasonableness of a checkpoint. The state failed to meet its burden to prove the checkpoints were constitutional.

Even by applying federal standards for checkpoints as found in Litchfield v. State, 824 N.E.2d 356, 361 (Ind. 2005), the state still fails to prove the checkpoints were constitutional.
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