Recently, the Supreme Court has heard and decided some monumental cases, such as those dealing with gay marriage and the Voting Rights Act. Although you have probably heard of these decisions, the Court has also made some crucial examinations on other rights we exercise on a daily basis over the last several years. This sample research paper visits the City of Indianapolis v. Edmond, a 2000 Court case dealing with the Fourth Amendment and police checkpoints.
The City of Indianapolis v. Edmond: An Unsung Supreme Court Decision
After setting up checkpoints to in Indianapolis, Indiana, the city was sued by two motorists under the issue as to whether,
“a highway checkpoint program whose primary purpose is the discovery and interdiction of illegal narcotics,” is constitutional (“City of Indianapolis,” 2012).
This case would eventually reach the United States Supreme Court, and they would decide in a 4-3 ruling that
“Because the checkpoint program’s primary purpose is indistinguishable from the general interest in crime control, the checkpoints violate the Fourth Amendment,” (O’Connor, 2000).
This decision helped limit the extent that authorities have on their use of power on citizens in such matters and was the correct decision to be made on the matter.
The court did not claim that all checkpoints violate the 4th Amendment rights of citizens; they specify instances where such checkpoints serve a valid purpose. The court held for
“a fixed checkpoint designed to intercept illegal aliens,” (O’Connor, 2000) and “at a sobriety checkpoint aimed at removing drunk drivers from the road,” (O’Connor, 2000).
However, they make specific note that the checkpoints in question fall under the idea of attempting to
“detect evidence of ordinary criminal wrongdoing,” (O’Connor, 2000).
These statements help to make claim to the court’s opinion that a checkpoint must possess a primary function that is clearly defined. Authorities should not be able to
“establish checkpoints for virtually any purpose so long as they also included a license or sobriety check,” (O’Connor, 2000).
The court does note that this does not deny the validity of checkpoints that are within certain public spaces. The court notes that certain checkpoints, such as those within airports, as necessary
“where the need for such measure to ensure public safety can be particularly acute,” (O’Connor, 2000).
It merely states that within this instance, a city should not be able to establish a checkpoint for such a generalized reason.
This ruling, being a 4-3 split, was not uncontroversial within the court. However, the ruling was the right one. If the court had not ruled in this way, it opens the gateway for authorities to have almost unchecked power over the citizens If a city can create a checkpoint for the point of simply looking out for general crime, what else can they do for the same purpose? It becomes a slippery slope in this scenario. This is not to say that this case’s ruling prevented the entire country from sliding into an authoritarian regime; however, the ruling is a necessary step to prevent the government from denying citizens their 4th Amendment rights of the U.S. Constitution.
Additionally, one of the issues on this case is the idea of drug detection. Should it be seen as simply general crime control, or does it fall under the standards of a specific purpose such as drunk driving. The answer to this question should be that drug detection is under the idea of general crime control. Unlike something such as drunk driving, drug detection is a very complex issue. Yes, certain drugs are illegal for all citizens and if found warrant arrest. However, what constitutes a drug can be quite difficult to define. For example, a prescription drug that could be necessary for one citizen to possess can be completely illegal for another citizen to possess.
In a situation such as this, the idea of drug detection becomes much more complex. Should authorities demand that citizens carry all prescriptions they receive on their person at all times? This seems excessive. To avoid difficulties that can arise from situations such as this, drug detection should simply be left as general crime control. After all, the point of the government is protect the people and serve them, not to go out of its way to look for wrong doing and punish citizens for what they may have done. The government should not go out of their way to try to punish citizens; the point of crime detection and prevention should be to protect citizens from crimes that pose a threat to the general population at large.
(2012). City of indianapolis v. edmond. Case Briefs, Retrieved from http://www.casebriefs.com/blog/law/criminal-procedure/criminal-procedure-keyed-to-saltzburg/searches-and-seizures-of-persons-and-things/city-of-indianapolis-v-edmond/2/
O’Connor, J. (2000). City of indianapolis et al. v. edmond et at. Find Law, Retrieved from http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/scripts/getcase.pl?court=US&vol=531&invol=32