183 F.3d 659 (7th Cir. 1999), 98-4124, Edmond & Palmer v. Goldsmith

Docket Nº:98-4124
Citation:183 F.3d 659
Party Name:James Edmond and Joell Palmer, on their own behalf and on behalf of a class of those similarly situated, Plaintiffs-Appellants, v. Stephen Goldsmith, in his official capacity as Mayor of the City of Indianapolis, Indiana; City of Indianapolis, Indiana; and Unknown Members of the Indianapolis Police Department, Defendants-Appellees.
Case Date:July 07, 1999
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

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183 F.3d 659 (7th Cir. 1999)

James Edmond and Joell Palmer, on their own behalf and on behalf of a class of those similarly situated, Plaintiffs-Appellants,


Stephen Goldsmith, in his official capacity as Mayor of the City of Indianapolis, Indiana; City of Indianapolis, Indiana; and Unknown Members of the Indianapolis Police Department, Defendants-Appellees.

No. 98-4124

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

July 7, 1999

Argued April 12, 1999

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, Indianapolis Division. No. 98 C 1400--Sarah Evans Barker, Chief Judge.

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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Before Posner, Chief Judge, and Easterbrook and Diane P. Wood, Circuit Judges.

Posner, Chief Judge.

A class action has been brought to enjoin the City of Indianapolis from setting up roadblocks to catch drug offenders, a practice that the plaintiffs claim violates the Fourth Amendment. The plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction was denied on the ground that the City's practice is lawful, precipitating this interlocutory appeal under 28 U.S.C. sec. 1292(a)(1). The legality of drug roadblocks has divided the other courts that have been asked to decide the issue. Compare United States v. Huguenin, 154 F.3d 547, 554-55 (6th Cir. 1998); United States v. Morales-Zamora, 974 F.2d 149 (10th Cir. 1992); Galberth v. United States, 590 A.2d 990 (D.C. 1991), and Wilson v. Commonwealth, 509 S.E.2d 540 (Va. App. 1999), which held them illegal, with Merrett v. Moore, 58 F.3d 1547 (11th Cir. 1995), and State v. Damask, 936 S.W.2d 565 (Mo. 1996), which held them legal. This is our first case. Because it was decided by the district court on a very skimpy stipulation of facts, our ruling on the legality of the City's program is necessarily tentative.

Six times between August and November of last year, the City's police department set up roadblocks on Indianapolis streets to catch drug offenders. A total of 1,161 cars were stopped at these roadblocks--for how long is unclear but the police endeavor to operate the checkpoints in such a manner that the stop does not exceed five minutes. During the stop, the police demand the driver's license and car registration, peer through the car's windows into its interior, and lead a drug-sniffing dog around the car. The stopping of the 1,161 vehicles resulted in 55 drug-related arrests, meaning that 5 percent of the total number of stops resulted in successful drug "hits," and 49 arrests for conduct unrelated to drugs, such as driving with an expired driver's license, for an overall hit rate of 9 percent. The City is continuing the program.

Stopping a car at a roadblock is a seizure within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment, Whren v. United States, 517 U.S. 806, 809-10 (1996); Michigan Dept. of State Police v. Sitz, 496 U.S. 444, 450 (1990), even though the sequel--the peering into the car windows and the sniffing of the car by the dog outside--does not rise to the level of a search as that term of the amendment has been interpreted by the Supreme Court. United States v. Place, 462 U.S. 696, 707 (1983); Texas v. Brown, 460 U.S. 730, 739-40 (1983); United States v. Ware, 914 F.2d 997, 1000 (7th Cir. 1990); United States v. Rodriguez-Morales, 929 F.2d 780, 788-89 (1st Cir. 1991). Whether the seizures effected by Indianapolis's drug roadblocks are reasonable may depend on whether reasonableness is to be assessed at the level of the entire program or of the individual stop. If the former, these roadblocks probably are legal, given the high "hit" rate and the only modestly intrusive character of the stops. In many Fourth Amendment contexts, the reasonableness of a practice is held to depend on the balance between its benefits (usually nonpecuniary) and its costs (ditto). E.g., Wyoming v. Houghton, 119 S.Ct. 1297, 1300 (1999); Whren v. United States, supra, 517 U.S. at 817; Skinner v. Railway Labor Executives' Ass'n, 489 U.S. 602, 619 (1989); Camara v. Municipal Court, 387 U.S. 523, 536-37 (1967); Dimeo v. Griffin, 943 F.2d 679, 681 (7th Cir. 1991) (en banc). The benefits of a random system of searches or seizures, such as vehicle stops pursuant to a roadblock system, are a function of, first, the probability that the stop will result in

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an arrest or a seizure of contraband or evidence of crime, and, second, the gain to the achievement of a lawful governmental goal that such an arrest or seizure will produce. The costs are a function of the harm that the stop will cause to the property or privacy of the people whose cars are stopped. In the case of Indianapolis's drug-roadblock program, the probability of a "hit" is high (vastly higher than, for example, the probability of a hit as a result of the screening of embarking passengers and their luggage at airports, see National Treasury Employees Union v. Von Raab, 489 U.S. 656, 675 n. 3 (1989)), and the deterrence of drug offenses produced by these hits advances the strong national, state, and local policy of discouraging the illegal use of controlled substances. The cost--in delay, anxiety, and invasion of privacy--to the drivers and passengers stopped for five minutes at a roadblock and subjected to a visual inspection of the interior and a sniff by a dog is small, though it is greater than the cost of the normal airport screening and (like that screening) is incurred in all stops while the benefit from the program is obtained only when there is a hit.

But courts do not usually assess reasonableness at the program level when they are dealing with searches related to general criminal law enforcement, see, e.g., Whren v. United States, supra, 517 U.S. at 810, rather than to primarily civil regulatory programs for the protection of health, safety, and the integrity of our borders. E.g., Michigan v. Tyler, 436 U.S. 499, 504-06 (1978); United States v. Martinez-Fuerte, 428 U.S. 543 (1976); Camara v. Municipal Court, supra; Platteville Area Apartment Ass'n v. City of Platteville, 179 F.3d 574 (7th Cir. 1999). Because it is infeasible to quantify the benefits and costs of most law enforcement programs, the program approach might well permit deep inroads into privacy. In high- crime areas of America's cities it might justify methods of policing that are associated with totalitarian nations. Cf. Brown v. Texas, 443 U.S. 47 (1979). One can imagine an argument that it would be reasonable in a drug-infested neighborhood to administer drug tests randomly to drivers and pedestrians. Although there is nothing in the text of the Fourth Amendment to prevent dragnet searches (read literally, the text requires only that searches and seizures be "reasonable" and confines the requirement of "probable cause" to searches or seizures made pursuant to warrant), the Supreme Court has insisted that "to be reasonable under the Fourth Amendment, a search ordinarily must be based on individualized suspicion of wrongdoing," save in cases of "special need" based on "concerns other than crime detection." Chandler v. Miller, 520 U.S. 305, 313-14 (1997) (emphasis added); see also Vernonia School District 47J v. Acton, 515 U.S. 646, 653 (1995); United States v. Martinez- Fuerte, supra, 428 U.S. at 560-61; Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 27 (1968). Program-level justifications for searches in support of specific regulatory programs do not carry over to general criminal law enforcement. See, e.g., Chandler v. Miller, supra, 520 U.S. at 313-14; New York v. Burger, 482 U.S. 691, 716 n. 27 (1987); Michigan v. Tyler, supra, 436 U.S. at 508; Donovan v. Dewey, 452 U.S. 594, 598 n. 6 (1981); Abel v. United States, 362 U.S. 217, 226 (1960); Michigan v. Clifford, 464 U.S. 287, 294 (1984) (plurality opinion); United States v. $124,570 U.S. Currency, 873 F.2d 1240, 1244 (9th Cir. 1989).

The qualification in "ordinarily" must not be overlooked. When the police establish a roadblock on a route that they know or strongly suspect is being used by a dangerous criminal to escape, the probability is high not only of apprehending the

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criminal but also of preventing him from engaging in further criminal, or otherwise hazardous, activity incidental to his escape. See, e.g., United States v. Harper, 617 F.2d 35, 40-41 (4th Cir. 1980). So the roadblock is allowed even though it is likely to "seize" some individuals who are not suspected of wrongdoing.

But here the roadblock is meant to intercept a completely random sample of drivers; there is neither probable cause nor articulable suspicion to stop any given driver. Even so, we can imagine cases in which, although the police do not suspect anyone, a roadblock or other dragnet method of criminal law enforcement would be reasonable. We may assume that if the Indianapolis police had a credible tip that a car loaded with dynamite and driven by an unidentified terrorist was en route to downtown Indianapolis, they would not be violating the Constitution if they blocked all the roads to the downtown area even though this would amount to stopping thousands of drivers without suspecting any one of them of criminal activity. See Maxwell v. City of New York, 102 F.3d 664 (2d Cir. 1996); Norwood v. Bain, 143 F.3d 843, 845-50 (4th Cir. 1998), aff'd (so far as pertinent), 166 F.3d 243, 245 (4th Cir. 1999) (en banc) (per curiam); United States v. Williams, 372 F.Supp. 65 (D. S. Dak. 1974); Brinegar v. United States, 338 U.S. 160, 183 (1949) (Jackson, J., dissenting); 4 Wayne R. LaFave, Search and Seizure: A Treatise on the Fourth Amendment sec. 9.6(a) (3d ed. 1996); American Law Institute, A Model Code of Pre-Arraignment Procedure sec. 110.2(2) (1975). When urgent considerations of the public safety require compromise with the normal principles constraining law enforcement, the normal principles may have to bend. The Constitution is not a suicide pact. But no such urgency has been shown here.

The Supreme Court has upheld the...

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