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D.C. Police Checkpoint Plan Likely Violates the Fourth Amendment:

So says the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, reversing a district court decision that denied a preliminary injunction against the plan. Orin blogged about this last year, and largely anticipated the D.C. Circuit's conclusion. As my very brief post on this last year suggests, I think the D.C. Circuit got it quite right.

Thanks for How Appealing for the pointer.

Soronel Haetir (mail):
I thought this had gotten so much blowback that it had been scrapped.
7.10.2009 1:52pm
Greek Geek:
Luckily for us in DC, though, the system takes so long that this measure was used successfully to stop crime in that neighborhood. Although I suppose there is a question as to standing/damages, but presumably the relief sought was injunctive.
7.10.2009 2:00pm
Kazinski:
The police check to see if you have sufficient reason to be in a neighborhood, and they deny you admittance if they don't think you have a good reason to go there?

It's like a gated community voucher for the poor.
7.10.2009 2:40pm
Frater Plotter:
Greek Geek, how can you claim that the police breaking the law "stops crime"? If the police break the law, aren't they creating more crime, namely their own?

If the police behave lawlessly, doesn't that demean the law to the level of mere brute force -- thereby proving the anarchists correct?
7.10.2009 3:20pm
Bob from Ohio (mail):

Luckily for us in DC, though, the system takes so long that this measure was used successfully to stop crime in that neighborhood.


So, the criminals, denied access there, stopped being criminals?

It is more likely they just did their crimes in other neighborhoods.
7.10.2009 3:31pm
Some Dude:
D.C. Police Checkpoint Plan Likely obviously Violates the Fourth Amendment:

Fixed that.
7.10.2009 3:40pm
Eugene Volokh (www):
Some Dude: I said "likely" because that's the specific holding of the Court of Appeals -- preliminary injunctions are based on a "likelihood of success." The court's opinion makes a strong case that the action violated the Fourth Amendment, but the specific holding is simply that there's a likelihood of success in the eventual final permanent injunction decision.
7.10.2009 3:51pm
BZ:
I wanted the Court to be wrong, since I agree that stopping those crimes in that area was an important interest. But having read the opinion, I agree with Prof. V; they seem to have gotten it right.

This incident appears to be another in a long line of D.C. decisions where the end justifies the means. As a govt lawyer explained to me a few months back after agreeing that the District had clearly made a mistake in attempting to fine my (well-known and easily-found) client while mailing the notices to the wrong address: "The Mayor needs money."
7.10.2009 4:29pm
Oren:

The police check to see if you have sufficient reason to be in a neighborhood, and they deny you admittance if they don't think you have a good reason to go there?

Since when did anyone need a reason to be anywhere?
7.10.2009 5:13pm
Greek Geek:
I agree that it is unconstitutional - just pointing out that the efforts achieved their purpose. I was all for it - but, I don't particularly like being shot.


So, the criminals, denied access there, stopped being criminals?

It is more likely they just did their crimes in other neighborhoods.


Typically, you may be right. However, this was related to drug and gang violence (specifically murder) in one particular neighborhood. The checkpoints were designed to keep people from out of the neighborhood (rival drug dealers) entering the neighborhood and attempting to kill other drug dealers, but mainly just killing innocents. I highly doubt these guys who wanted to come in and specifically target members of this neighborhood drug ring were going to go downtown and start shooting people up.

This was a principally harmless tactic that has now been deemed illegal, apparently (really, to no one's surprise).
7.10.2009 5:18pm
Oren:
I can't imagine how the presumption that I need to state a legitimate need to be somewhere is "harmless".

It's a complete reversal of the normal logic in a free society -- that the citizens need not give a reason for anything but the government must show a compelling reason to limit our freedom.
7.10.2009 5:27pm
Gabriel McCall (mail):
This was a principally harmless tactic

Only if you believe that there is no harm in placing the police above the law whenever it seems convenient to do so. There are always going to be arguments that good ends justify unlawful means; we have societally made a decision to oppose that viewpoint, and I'd argue that violating that decision is indeed harmful.
7.10.2009 5:27pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

Luckily for us in DC, though, the system takes so long that this measure was used successfully to stop crime in that neighborhood.
Could you consider some other strategy for making DC safe? Like sending convicted violent criminals to prison for long periods of time?
7.10.2009 5:29pm
hawkins:

This was a principally harmless tactic that has now been deemed illegal


Harmless? No more harmless than violating the constitutional rights of drug dealers, thieves, nazis, or any other deplorable person.
7.10.2009 5:31pm
Lior:
It is hard to believe that the DC police legal department approved such measures, yet evidently they did. I wonder what sanctions follow for such malpractice?
7.10.2009 5:31pm
John Burgess (mail) (www):
CC: That would help, as would imposing capital punishment on capital criminals. Or electing a government that didn't thrive through paying tiny little bribes to the electorate so they could collect larger bribes themselves.

But then, that would mean re-inventing city politics, countrywide. Do-able, perhaps, but only with a substantial stimulus bill behind it.
7.10.2009 5:33pm
whit:

I can't imagine how the presumption that I need to state a legitimate need to be somewhere is "harmless".

It's a complete reversal of the normal logic in a free society -- that the citizens need not give a reason for anything but the government must show a compelling reason to limit our freedom.


exactly. somebody put it very succinctly. the 4th amendment essentially protects the right of people to be left alone.

it does not surprise me at all that DC would engage in such blatantly uncosntitutional restrictions on the rights of peoplein the district. this is the locale that brought us heller after all.

police need justification to stop people. people do not need to provide justification to police in order to move.
7.10.2009 6:23pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

Harmless? No more harmless than violating the constitutional rights of drug dealers, thieves, nazis, or any other deplorable person.
One thing you need to remember is that progressives don't want to engage in such vicious discriminatory practices as treating drug dealers, thieves, and murderers worse than they treat everyone else.

This is the motivation for gun control as well: rather than treat people with histories of violent criminal behavior like they are violent criminals, much better to disarm everyone, in the hopes that the bad guys will be disarmed also.
7.10.2009 6:55pm
Just Dropping By (mail):
DC should have just declared that these were "anti-terrorism" checkpoints. It's like a "Get Out Of The Fourth Amendment Free" card.
7.10.2009 7:22pm
sweesh (mail):
i lived in this neighborhood during all these checkpoints. what i found odd was that they were only allowed to stop cars. as i sat on my porch and watched the police do their 'work' i witnessed much profiling. white people were rarely stopped, older drivers as well.

obviously if one was smart they would have realized that anyone walking was not subject to this stop because of the 'safety check' rules.

i was stopped one night coming home in the car i was borrowing from my boss. my DC ID did not have my trinidad address on it, wasn't my car....so did they let me through?

yes, probably because i am white but that could be construed as racist...they had many reasons to keep me. not my car, i had no 'reason' to be there, no lease with me, no documentation.....

i have had a problem with this tactic since they started the initiative. sure, maybe it helps to have them doing this but what would help more is just their presence more than just a few nights of check points.


they would arrive in the late afternoon and leave by 9 PM. during which time my neighbors were slinging drugs right in front of them.

i read this site everyday and never really chime in but living there and seeing how it 'worked' is something i wanted to offer.
7.11.2009 4:24am

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