I live in a tiny rural town on the edge of Northern Virginia. You cross the river, which forms the southern border of the town, and county, and you’re in “real” Virginia, that is the un-Yankeefied rest of the state.
Our little town of less than 700 has a five-man police force. To me that’s an incredible number of cops for such a small town. It’s not like we’re the crime mecca of Va. And, when you consider we have about five deputy sheriffs living in here as well as a couple state cops, the police coverage does seem a bit extravagant, especially given falling property tax revenues from the numerous foreclosures in town.
My house is on the main drag through town, and from this vantage point I have great view of the “traffic safety” police road blocks that the town cops throw up every couple weeks. Last week, I had to run down the street to a little store and pulling out of my driveway immediately encountered one of these road blocks.
As I drove down the street, less than a block from my house, two town cops stepped into the roadway and one signalled for me to stop. He asked for my drivers license. I asked why I was stopped and he said it was a “routine” check that the town was paid by the Va. Division of Motor Vehicles to conduct.
Reading today’s newspaper, I discovered that stop was the first of two “license/registration checkpoints” conducted that day. According to the local paper:
In all officers issued 17 summonses. Of those, three were for unlicensed drivers and two were for driving suspended. Officers also issued summonses for child safety seat violations.
According to the town cop:
The primary purpose of the checkpoints — which were conducted in suppor of the Click-It or Ticket campaign — was to promote overall traffic safety in the community.
The cops say the checkpoints are a “constant” in the police department’s enforcement strategy. Translation: this is one of the only ways we can justify our salaries, besides running radar in the same spot every day.
He said, “motorists may expect more checkpoints.”
Now, I know the courts have held that these checkpoints are not violations of the 4th and 5th Amendments to the Constitutions, although I understand that Justice Clarence Thomas has said he would have voted to consider the checkpoints unconstitutional had he been on the Supreme Court when the issue was considered.
Legal or no, the civil libertarian in me finds them to be incredibly intrusive and unreasonable.
As a motorist, if I am driving legally, that is obeying speed and other traffic laws, in a lawfully tagged and other wise safe vehicle, then the cops have no business at all of stopping me from travelling to my intended destination for some bogus dragnet.
And it really cranks me off to know that my property taxes, to which I pay to both the county and TOWN, are going to fund a bloated and useless police force, whose only real purpose is to harrass motorist and write revenue generating tickets.
Apparently I am not alone in objecting to these gestapo-like intrusions into my rights. The National Motorist Association also opposes traffic stops from 5 Thing You Need to Know About Roadblocks:
The National Motorists Association opposes the use of roadblocks, period. The only justification for stopping citizens under a roadblock scenario is to warn them of an unseen peril that could cause injury or death to an unsuspecting motorist.
So-called “sobriety check points,” or seat belt checks, or the myriad of other excuses the government concocts to harass and intimidate its citizens through the use of roadblocks are, in our opinion unconstitutional and in direct contradiction to any honest definition of freedom.
Here’s some guidance from an article entitled, “Reasons to be prepared for police road blocks“:
- 1. At a police road block, you may be asked for your driver’s license, registration, and proof of insurance. After complying with these requests and your documentation is returned, you have the right to leave unless the police have a legitimate reason to detain you. You must ask them if you are free to go; if you do not, they may later claim that you stayed voluntarily.
- 2. When asked to supply your driving documentation, you have the right to open your window only enough to pass your documents to the police officer. The police officer does not have the right to stick his head or his flashlight inside of your vehicle.
- 3. You have the right to say little and be on your way. You do not have to answer questions about where you are going or where you have been. You do not have to answer any questions that do not pertain to your driving documentation. You cannot be legally detained for refusing to make small talk with a police officer at a road block.
- 4. If the police at a road block ask to search your car, you have the right to refuse. Politely but firmly say “no”. If they have to ask permission to search your car, then they don’t have probable cause or reasonable suspicion, which is the legal requirement for a forced vehicle search. Do not permit a voluntary search of your vehicle that may land you in trouble. If the police ask why you are refusing a search of your vehicle, tell them that you value your right to privacy.
- 5. If police at a road block are persistent about searching your vehicle, you have the right to know why. You should ask what they think they will find or what they are looking for. If they cannot give you plausible answers, then they do not have the legal right to search your vehicle.
- 6. If a vehicle search is forced upon you, you have the right to request that the searching officer wear gloves. You also have the right to request a witness to the search.
- 7. If you are ordered to exit your vehicle, you have the right to lock your doors.