Roadside Safety Checkpoints as Social Control

Robert Schehr, University of Illinois - Springfield

Roadside safety checkpoints signify internsification of state-based control efforts. While earlier precedents are relevant and will be addressed in this paper, Supreme Court rulings beginning with the Sitz (1990) decision paved the way for roadside safety checks by balancing the motorists interest in privacy with the state's interest in assuring lawful activity. Questions raised in this paper include: a) the legitimacy of the Supreme Court's reliance on the balancing test established in Brown v. Texas (1979), b) the Court's interpretation of social scientific data relating to DUI to legitimate the necessity for checkpoints, and c) the impact roadside safety checkpoints have on personal liberty. I will also discuss the implications of the November, 2000 Supreme Court ruling in the City of Indianapolis v. Edmonson (2000). While this ruling does not invalidate roadside safety checkpoints as they have been established under Sitz, it does thro aspects of roadside safety checkpoints into question.

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Updated 05/20/2006