Do Police Safety Checkpoints Violate Rights?

Do Police Safety Checkpoints Violate Rights?

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Mobile, AL -

Attorney Ginger Poynter tells us, under law, police are required to let the public know about safety checkpoints, but not necessarily where.

"The DA's office has to be notified and they have to notify the public of them, but as long as they do that, then unfortunately we're stuck," says Ginger Poynter.

They also have to follow a specific plan. Someone in authority must dictate how many cars they will pull over, whether it's every car or every fifth car. Cpl. Chris Levy at Mobile Police say it's all an effort to keep you safe.

"That's why we call them safety checkpoints because we're looking for those key elements that are prescribed by law—seatbelts, child safety restraints, driver's license, proof of insurance, vehicle registration," says Levy.

However, Poynter would not agree with that entirely.

"They stop you and they ask you for your papers. Fourth amendment says you can't do that. We are free from searches. We're supposed to be free in our papers and effects. That includes our driver's license. The only way they're supposed to ask you for your license and registration and proof of insurance is if they've seen a violation. So just passing through a checkpoint, if they don't have any reason to believe you've been drinking, they're not supposed to be asking you for papers and they're doing that."

But Cpl. Levy maintains, driving is not a God-given right.

"You don't have to be stopped, you don't have to be checked and this, that and the other, however, you also don't have to drive. If you do choose to operate a motor vehicle, then you do have to abide by the law."

"But they don't have the right to look at them anytime they want, they have to have probable cause before they're allowed to look at our papers," says Poynter.

Even though drivers have fourth amendment rights which guard against unreasonable searches and seizures, experts tell me it's just easier to comply with an officer instead of putting up a fight.

"You go through, you have your proper things that are prescribed by the law, you'll be in and out of a checkpoint, no time flat," says Levy.

"If you're not cooperative, they assume it's probable cause—it's not, the courts have said that is not probable cause, but you're more likely to get arrested," says Poynter.

They do let drivers know with signs that a checkpoint is ahead, however, if you turn around, especially if you're making an illegal u-turn, they will pull you over thinking you may have something to hide. If it's an emergency and you have to get to the hospital, Levy says officers will aid you in getting there, but they might still ask to see your license.

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