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People v. Bartley





Appeal from the Circuit Court of McDonough County; the Hon. William D. Henderson, Judge, presiding.


The defendant, Jimmy L. Bartley, was stopped at a police checkpoint roadblock. Officers at the checkpoint observed the defendant and arrested him for driving under the influence of intoxicating liquor (hereafter DUI). (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1981, ch. 95 1/2, par. 11-501.) The trial court granted the defendant's motions to suppress his arrest and the related evidence. The State certified that the suppression order substantially impairs its ability to prosecute the defendant, and timely filed a notice of appeal.

Just prior to midnight on Saturday, December 18, 1982, officers from the McDonough County Sheriff's Department, Macomb City Police, Illinois State Police and Illinois Secretary of State Police set up a checkpoint on a five-lane street in Macomb. The checkpoint was located at a point between the city's only all-night restaurant and the central business district. The checkpoint operated for approximately two hours.

Following the hearing on the defendant's motion to suppress, the trial court found that the purpose for establishing the instant checkpoint was to apprehend DUI violators. The court concluded that the State's interest in apprehending DUI violators did not outweigh the intrusion caused by a checkpoint stop of citizens. The court held that the roadblock arrest violated the fourth amendment and therefore suppressed the evidence resulting from the defendant's arrest.

Based on the record, there can be little doubt that the roadblock was established for the purpose of apprehending drunk drivers. Therefore, the sole question on appeal is whether such roadblocks are constitutionally permissible.

• 1 A checkpoint or roadblock stop constitutes a seizure within the meaning of the fourth amendment of the United States Constitution. In United States v. Martinez-Fuerte (1976), 428 U.S. 543, 49 L.Ed.2d 1116, 96 S.Ct. 3074, the Supreme Court declared that vehicle stops at a fixed checkpoint are consistent with the fourth amendment and do not require a warrant. The case involved a permanent checkpoint set up at the Mexican border to monitor the transport of illegal aliens. The court held that such stops did not need to be based on a reasonable suspicion of illegal activity as did border stops by roving patrols. United States v. Brignoni-Ponce (1975), 422 U.S. 873, 45 L.Ed.2d 607, 95 S.Ct. 2574.

The court's reasoning was based on three considerations. First, a checkpoint stop involved minimal intrusion. The objective intrusion, which the court defined as the stop, questioning and visual inspection of the vehicles' occupants, was the same in checkpoint and roving patrol stops. However, subjective intrusion, defined as concern, surprise or alarm generated in the minds of lawful travelers, was much less in the case of checkpoint stops which were conducted at fixed locations with ample warning as to what a motorist was to expect. In contrast, stops by roving border patrols were usually conducted without warning on lonely roads at night, causing a great deal of concern and uneasiness on the part of a detainee. Also, checkpoint stops were considered less intrusive because officers had no discretion as to which cars would be inspected. The regularized manner in which the checkpoint operated was neither arbitrary, random nor capricious.

Second, the important government and public interest in stopping the flow of illegal immigrants far outweighed the minimal objective and subjective intrusion caused by the checkpoint stops.

Finally, the problem of illegal immigration could not be dealt with in a less intrusive manner. The only effective way of detecting whether persons are being smuggled across the border is to subject traffic to close inspection.

Based on the minimal intrusion involved, limited police discretion, the important government interest at stake and the unavailability of effective alternatives, the court approved warrantless checkpoint stops. Three years later in Delaware v. Prouse (1979), 440 U.S. 648, 59 L.Ed.2d 660, 99 S.Ct. 1391, the court, in dicta, extended this holding to roadblock license checks in urban settings.

In Prouse, the court held that random stops by roving patrol cars for the purpose of conducting license and safety checks were unconstitutional. Echoing the language of Martinez, the court held that the high degree of subjective intrusion caused by random stops outweighed the government interest in promoting highway safety and that random stops were an ineffective means of carrying out this interest. The court found that more effective and less intrusive means were available which minimized the field officers' discretion over whom to stop. One such means suggested by the court was to question all oncoming traffic at roadblock type stops. And so the roadblocks began.

• 2 The constitutionality of a roadblock designed to detain all traffic in order to screen out intoxicated drivers is an issue of first impression in Illinois. As with all warrantless searches and seizures, the constitutionality of DUI roadblocks is determined by balancing the legitimate governmental interest against the degree of intrusion on individuals' fourth amendment rights. Delaware v. Prouse (1979), 440 U.S. 648, 654, 59 L.Ed.2d 660, 667, 99 S.Ct. 1391, 1396.

This balancing test involves three considerations: (1) the gravity of public concern 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 (1979), 443 U.S. 47, 61 L.Ed.2d 357, 99 S.Ct. 2627.

Regarding the first factor, it is beyond dispute that drunk drivers are a grave menace to the public and that stronger measures are needed to cope with the problem. However, we must bear in mind that in cases where the Supreme Court has either expressly or impliedly sanctioned checkpoint stops, the criminal activity targeted was of such a nature that there was no other less intrusive but equally effective means of detecting violators. Transporters ...

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