March 23, 2011

U.S. Senators all in a tizzy over DUI Apps on Apple and Google

Apparently four Democratic senators wrote a letter to Apple, RIM (Blackberry) and Google requesting that they discontinue distributing the app(s) which let drivers share information in real time concerning the location of DUI checkpoints roadblocks. It seems the Senators are upset because they do not want this information shared among the public because they want as many drivers as possible to be snared in these dubious road blacks. The interesting thing is there is significant case law concerning DUI roadblocks in Maryland and throughout the country. In Maryland it appears that the good Senators may not be up to speed on the current state of the law.
At the outset, drivers have a 4th Amendment Constitutional right to be free of unreasonable searches and seizures by the Government unless there exists reasonable articulable suspicion to believe that a driver is engaged in some form of criminal behavior. This is a very important right because it protects you as an American citizen against the overzealous Government. It is the difference between living in America versus living in Lybia. This is what deters the cops from kicking your door in at 3:00 a.m. simply because the doughnut shop is closed and they have nothing else to do. Unfortunately for the people, the Courts have been successful in eroding and restricting this very important legal right in the name of DUI prosecution.
Years back, the Michigan Supreme Court recognized a citizen’s Constitutional right and held that DUI roadblocks and sobriety checkpoints were in fact illegal in that it was an invasion of personal privacy to stop an automobile without reasonable articulable suspicion. However, the Government not being satisfied with the Court’s holding appealed the case to the Supreme Court of the United States and in Michigan v. Sitz, the Supremes recognized that while this behavior was in fact a violation of the Constitution, we are going to look the other way and allow this illegal behavior in the name of DUI prosecution. There are people that may hail this decision as a success, but any ruling that erodes the rights and protections of the people vis-à-vis the United States Constitution, is definitely not a success. The Court (Chief Justice Rehnquist) held that despite the violation to the person, there is a greater good which must be protected and that is the safety of the people against drunk drivers. The Supremes left the details about how to utilize this new found public intrusion up to the individual states. The great State of California was the first to interpret these new “rights” in Ingersoll v. Palmer. In that case, the Court identified the fact that public notice to the people was important to lower the emotional trauma of such “police state” action on citizens.
Maryland soon interpreted these new DUI checkpoint rights in Little v. State (300 Md.485) 1984. In Little, Maryland’s high court held no Fourth Amendment violation occurred when automobile occupants were stopped at sobriety checkpoints in view of the State’s compelling interest in controlling drunk driving. Thus, the Court is now finding that the Constitution does render rights to the people, but if there are compelling interests that outweigh those rights, then the Constitution is out the window. Just what the esteemed framers had in mind I’m sure, a flexible document of rights, but only when they are convenient to follow.

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February 19, 2010

Another Roadblock case

I recently tried another DUI Roadblock case in Howard County District Court. Yes, another roadblock case, I have written extensively regarding the legality of roadblocks and the DUI Defendant's responsibility in Maryland. For those who are interested, the seminal case is Little v. State which spells out the Government's obligations to you (the people of Maryland) and your legal rights under this evasive big brother type of traffic stop scenario in which the Government has placed their stamp of approval.

It is an "evasive big brother" type of traffic stop because the police are stopping your car with no probable cause and with no "reasonable articulable suspicion" that the driver has committed any crime or traffic infringement whatsoever (this is required by case law to stop a vehicle). The people of this country are protected (used to be protected) against stops like this by the U.S. Constitution. However, the Government has saw fit to override your Constitutional Protections in light of the nefarious drunk drivers and boisterous arguments advanced by MADD. Drunk driving is indeed dangerous and stupid, it hurts people and cannot be tolerated in any form; however, the way to go about the problem is not to trample the Constitution and stop every car for an "inspection" like Nazi Germany, the way to handle the problem is through highway supervision like it is normally done, where there does exist reasonable suspicion protections to pull drivers over when they are weaving, speeding or exhibit some other transgression on the roadway.

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