Merrett v. Moore, No. 93-2510

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (11th Circuit)
Writing for the CourtBefore EDMONDSON and BIRCH, Circuit Judges, and HILL; EDMONDSON
Citation58 F.3d 1547
Decision Date25 July 1995
Docket NumberNo. 93-2510
PartiesJohn M. MERRETT, Solomon Clayton, Jr., Cecelia A. Clayton, Plaintiffs-Appellants, v. James T. MOORE, Commissioner, FDLE, Leonard Mellon, Exec. Director, Florida Dept. of Highway Safety & Motor Vehicles, Lawrence Crow, Chief, Lakeland Police Dept., Jerald Vaughn, Defendants-Appellees.

Page 1547

58 F.3d 1547
John M. MERRETT, Solomon Clayton, Jr., Cecelia A. Clayton,
Plaintiffs-Appellants,
v.
James T. MOORE, Commissioner, FDLE, Leonard Mellon, Exec.
Director, Florida Dept. of Highway Safety & Motor
Vehicles, Lawrence Crow, Chief, Lakeland
Police Dept., Jerald Vaughn,
Defendants-Appellees.
No. 93-2510.
United States Court of Appeals,
Eleventh Circuit.
July 25, 1995.

Page 1548

Edward W. Stafmen, Stafmen & Friedlander, Tallahassee, FL, for appellants.

Charlie McCoy, James A. Peters, Asst. Attys. Gen., Dept. of Legal Affairs, Tallahassee, FL, for Mellon, Butterworth and Dempsey.

John P. Booth, Charlie McCoy, Asst. Gen. Counsel, Fla Dept. of Law Enforcement, Tallahassee, FL, for Moore & Dempsey.

Reynolds E. Pitts, Jr., Fuller, Johnson & Farrell, P.A., Pensacola, FL, Patrick J. Farrell, Robert W. Ritsch, Fuller, Johnson & Farrell, P.A., Tallahassee, FL, for Cities of Lakeland, Mailtand & Largo Police Depts., Crow, Doyle, Vaughn and Ervin.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Florida.

Before EDMONDSON and BIRCH, Circuit Judges, and HILL, Senior Circuit Judge.

EDMONDSON, Circuit Judge:

This case requires us to consider when, consistent with the Constitution, a state may establish roadblocks for the chief purpose of locating illegal drugs. This case arose out of roadblocks that Florida law enforcement officials established along state highways. Plaintiffs brought suit under 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1983 claiming that their Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights were violated when their vehicles were stopped, sniffed by dogs, and in some cases, searched at these roadblocks. Because the roadblocks, as planned by defendants, were not unconstitutional, we affirm the district court's orders granting summary judgment against plaintiffs' claims.

Page 1549

Briefly stated, the undisputed facts of this case are as follows. 1 From 1982 through 1984, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) developed a series of operations intended to intercept illegal drugs on state highways. As part of the operation, FDLE officials proposed to set up temporary checkpoints along highways to stop all traffic and expose the cars to narcotic sniffing dogs. Because the FDLE has no authority to establish roadblocks, it asked for the assistance of the Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) to set up drivers' license checkpoints. FDLE officials also requested the assistance of K-9 units, each consisting of a narcotic sniffing dog and its handler, from the cities of Maitland, Lakeland, and Largo, Florida.

The joint operation plan, entitled "Interdiction of Illegal Narcotics, North Florida," called for roadblocks from 4:00 p.m. until 10:00 p.m. on January 11 and 12, 1984, at specific sites on four Florida highways near the Georgia state line. Six FHP troopers, one FHP investigator, five FDLE agents, and four or five K-9 units were assigned to each site. At a pre-operation briefing, all participants were given a copy of the Operation Plan and instructed about their respective responsibilities. The FHP troopers were responsible for traffic control and for stopping vehicles, checking obvious safety defects, and examining drivers' licenses and vehicle registrations. They were instructed to stop all traffic passing through the roadblocks until traffic became congested, in which case vehicles were to be waved through as necessary to avoid long backups.

The dog handlers were told that the outside of each car was to be sniffed by the dogs as FHP troopers checked the driver's license and vehicle registration. If a dog alerted to the presence of drugs or if license or registration problems were found, the car was directed to a location out of the flow of traffic. In the case of a dog alert, a second dog was supposed to check the outside of the car. If the second dog alerted, consent to search was requested; and, if refused, the driver was detained until a search warrant was obtained. FDLE agents worked with the dog handlers and were responsible for making decisions about vehicle searches if a dog alerted to the presence of drugs.

Other teams--each consisting of an FDLE agent, an FHP trooper, and K-9 unit--were directed to walk around vehicles parked in nearby rest areas and truck stops. If the dogs alerted, the driver was to be located and asked for consent to search.

During the operation, the Florida Department of Transportation set up traffic control devices including cones, warning signs, and flashing lights to direct motorists to the checkpoints. During the two day operation, approximately 2100 vehicles passed through the roadblocks of which roughly 1330 were stopped. With the vehicles checked by teams at the rest areas and truck stops, approximately 1450 vehicles were sniffed by the dogs. The dogs alerted to 28 vehicles; and, after a full search, only one person was arrested for possession of illegal narcotics. In addition, law enforcement officials issued sixty-one vehicle-related citations.

At the roadblocks, the actual encounter with the officers conducting the drivers' license checks lasted a few minutes. And, the dogs usually were able to sniff the exterior of the cars before the license and registration checks were completed. So, most people experienced only a slight delay. But, during rush hours, traffic backed up; and some people waited thirty to forty-five minutes before arriving at the roadblock or being waved through. In general, vehicles were permitted to leave the lines approaching the roadblocks and to turn around, but not without first being stopped by a trooper and having their registrations and drivers' licenses checked. Still, in at least one instance, a driver was instructed to remain in the line. People whose vehicles were actually searched experienced longer delays. In addition, one car overheated; one minor accident occurred; the dogs scratched several cars; and one person was bitten by a dog.

Plaintiffs, a class of motorists stopped at the roadblocks, brought suit against state and local officials involved in the operation.

Page 1550

Plaintiffs say the checkpoints violated their Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. Plaintiffs specifically sued defendants Robert Dempsey, the Commissioner of FDLE during the operation, and Robert Butterworth, the Director of the Florida Department of Highway Safety at the time, in their individual capacities, seeking compensatory and punitive damages. Plaintiffs also sued the police departments for the Florida cities of Lakeland, Maitland, and Largo and their Chiefs of Police for compensatory and punitive damages. In addition, plaintiffs sued the current Commissioner of FDLE, James Moore, and the current Director of the Department of Highway Safety, Fred Dickinson, in their official capacities, seeking declaratory and injunctive relief to prevent the state from conducting future roadblock operations.

The district court disposed of the case through a series of orders. First, the court dismissed the claim against the police chiefs and their city police departments on the grounds that the chiefs had not "knowingly conspired" to violate plaintiffs' rights and that the facts did not support imposing municipal liability. Next, the court addressed the merits of plaintiffs' constitutional claims and concluded that the operation, as planned, violated no constitutional rights. In a later order, the court granted defendants Butterworth and Dempsey qualified immunity on the grounds that, at the time of the roadblocks, it was not clearly established that the operation violated plaintiffs' constitutional rights. The court also dismissed the claim against Moore and Dickinson because the planned operation did not--and in the future will not--authorize unconstitutional conduct.

The district court's orders contain no reversible errors of law. Everything stated in those orders will not be restated in this opinion; instead, we write to emphasize and to clarify some points raised by this case.

At the outset, plaintiffs contend that the State of Florida conducted the roadblock operation at issue for the purpose of exposing the cars to the drug sniffing dogs. So, plaintiffs claim the operation was an invalid pretextual seizure. We disagree. 2 That the chief (but not sole) purpose of the roadblocks in this case was to intercept drugs is undisputed. That the state had the authority to conduct roadblocks to check drivers' license and vehicle registration is also undisputed. We conclude that, where the state has one lawful purpose sufficient to

Page 1551

justify a roadblock, that the state also uses the roadblock to intercept illegal drugs does not render the roadblock unconstitutional. In other words, we adopt a totally objective rule: a state may conduct a mixed-motive roadblock as long as one purpose presented for the roadblock could validly justify the roadblock, even if no roadblock would have been put in place but for the state's desire to hunt for unlawful drugs. 3

Our holding that the state of Florida, in principle, has the authority to conduct some roadblocks, at which drugs are sought, does not conclude our consideration of this operation's constitutionality. Next, we must consider whether this operation--as planned or in the reality of its performance--violated plaintiffs' constitutional rights; that is, whether these roadblocks were reasonable in the light of the state's interest in conducting the roadblocks, the...

To continue reading

Request your trial
32 practice notes
  • State v. Wiegand, No. C2-00-1137
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Minnesota (US)
    • June 13, 2002
    ...does not implicate the Fourth Amendment when conducted around automobile during legitimate 645 N.W.2d 135 traffic stop); Merrett v. Moore, 58 F.3d 1547, 1553 (11th Cir.1995) (holding that dog sniffs conducted without individualized reasonable suspicion around automobiles legitimately detain......
  • State v Hicks, 99-00957
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Tennessee
    • September 11, 2001
    ...Rodriguez, 722 N.E.2d 429, 433 (Mass. 2000). (FN5). United States v. Galindo-Gonzales, 142 F.3d 1217 (10th Cir. 1998); Merrett v. Moore, 58 F.3d 1547 (11th Cir. 1995); United States v. Trevino, 60 F.3d 333 (7th Cir.1995); United States v. McFayden, 865 F.2d 1306 (D.C. Cir. (FN6). Justice Ba......
  • Edmond & Palmer v. Goldsmith, No. 98-4124
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (7th Circuit)
    • July 7, 1999
    ...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 d......
  • People v. Ortega, No. 01SA70.
    • United States
    • Colorado Supreme Court of Colorado
    • October 1, 2001
    ...whether an illegal substance may be present and little else, do not compromise a legitimate expectation of privacy); Merrett v. Moore, 58 F.3d 1547, 1553 n. 11 (11th Cir.1995) ("use of dogs on the exterior of cars constitutes no search"). Nor does a search or seizure occur where officials d......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
32 cases
  • State v. Wiegand, No. C2-00-1137
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Minnesota (US)
    • June 13, 2002
    ...does not implicate the Fourth Amendment when conducted around automobile during legitimate 645 N.W.2d 135 traffic stop); Merrett v. Moore, 58 F.3d 1547, 1553 (11th Cir.1995) (holding that dog sniffs conducted without individualized reasonable suspicion around automobiles legitimately detain......
  • State v Hicks, 99-00957
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Tennessee
    • September 11, 2001
    ...Rodriguez, 722 N.E.2d 429, 433 (Mass. 2000). (FN5). United States v. Galindo-Gonzales, 142 F.3d 1217 (10th Cir. 1998); Merrett v. Moore, 58 F.3d 1547 (11th Cir. 1995); United States v. Trevino, 60 F.3d 333 (7th Cir.1995); United States v. McFayden, 865 F.2d 1306 (D.C. Cir. (FN6). Justice Ba......
  • Edmond & Palmer v. Goldsmith, No. 98-4124
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (7th Circuit)
    • July 7, 1999
    ...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 d......
  • People v. Ortega, No. 01SA70.
    • United States
    • Colorado Supreme Court of Colorado
    • October 1, 2001
    ...whether an illegal substance may be present and little else, do not compromise a legitimate expectation of privacy); Merrett v. Moore, 58 F.3d 1547, 1553 n. 11 (11th Cir.1995) ("use of dogs on the exterior of cars constitutes no search"). Nor does a search or seizure occur where officials d......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT