State Court Says Bibb Roadblocks Were Illegal

6:09 PM, Oct 21, 2013   |    comments
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It has become common practice in Central Georgia for law enforcement agencies to set up roadblocks where they snag drunk drivers, people toting illegal drugs or those involved in other illicit activities.

A recent ruling by the Georgia Supreme Court could have police and sheriff's departments thinking twice about this tactic.

A Bibb County Sheriff's Office sergeant set up one such road block in the early morning hours of Nov. 27, 2010 and a man was arrested for driving drunk.

According to the court's ruling, the roadblock violated the man's Fourth Amendment right against illegal searches and seizures.

"At a minimum, the State must show that the law enforcement agency's checkpoint program had an appropriate primary purpose other than ordinary crime control," wrote Judge David Nahmias in the court's unanimous decision. "The state failed to make that showing in this case, and therefore must conclude that the checkpoint ... violated the Fourth Amendment.

Vanessa Howard lives near Anthony Road, where she says roadblock are common.

"A lot of time when you stop people, those are actually not the people that you're looking for," she says.  She also says the roadblocks can lead to profiling because when the line backs, up, officers often let cars go through.

Previous U.S. Supreme Court rulings have said law enforcement can use roadblocks for specific purposes, such as for DUI enforcement, but not to stop random people without cause.

Bibb County Sheriff David Davis says although he feels his officers follow proper procedure, he plans on changing the wording in their department policies to make it less vague.

Solicitor Rebecca Grist says there are likely hundreds of outstanding cases involving stops during a roadblock.  She says the ruling will not allow those cases to be thrown out because the court's ruling was limited to that case and not all-encompassing.

Follow 13WMAZ's Tom George on Twitter @thetomgeorge

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