State v. Henderson, 16852

Citation756 P.2d 1057,114 Idaho 293
Decision Date15 June 1988
Docket NumberNo. 16852,16852
PartiesSTATE of Idaho, Plaintiff-Respondent, v. David L. HENDERSON, Defendant-Appellant.
CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Idaho

Wishney & Elgee, Boise, for defendant-appellant. Robert J. Elgee argued.

Jim Jones, Atty. Gen., Myrna A.I. Stahman (argued), Deputy Atty. Gen., Boise, for plaintiff-respondent.

HUNTLEY, Justice.

We are here required to decide whether a police roadblock designed to detect and deter drunk driving isconstitutionally permissible where the police have failed to obtain a judicial warrant, have no probable cause to believe the automobile driver is engaged in criminal wrongdoing, and lack legislative authority to establish a roadblock. The issue is whether the warrantless search is prohibited by the Idaho constitutional prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures. In light of the individual's right of freedom from arbitrary governmental intrusion, and the questionable efficacy of roadblocks, we conclude that such roadblocks cannot withstand constitutional scrutiny. We reverse.


On appeal from a judgment of conviction for driving while under the influence of alcohol (DUI), David Henderson contends that the roadblock at which he was stopped and subsequently arrested was an unreasonable search and seizure in violation of both the United States Constitution and the Idaho Constitution. Henderson moved to suppress all evidence of his intoxicated condition obtained during the stop on the basis that the evidence resulted from an unlawful seizure. Following a denial of that motion by the magistrate, Henderson entered a conditional plea of guilty. The district court, acting in an appellate capacity, affirmed the magistrate's judgment and sentence. Henderson now brings this appeal.

During Memorial Day weekend, the Boise City Police Department conducted a DUI roadblock on Main Street at its intersection with 29th Street, between midnight and two a.m. on Saturday, May 25, 1985. The chief of police approved the roadblock. Also, advance announcement of the date, but not the exact location of the intended roadblock, was publicized for several weeks by the local news media. The site was selected because it was an area having a history of alcohol-related traffic violations as well as being a street with heavy traffic. The roadblock, starting on Main at about 18th Street, was visible for a number of blocks. A flashing arrow, merge signs, reflectorized barrels and traffic-control cones marked the area which funneled vehicles from five lanes into one. An adjacent parking lot was used for administering field-sobriety tests.

For the first five to ten minutes every vehicle was stopped. However, the resulting congestion prompted the roadblock commander either to stop vehicles on a sequence basis or to allow all vehicles to pass until the backup subsided. All drivers were given a pamphlet describing the purpose of the roadblock. By distributing the pamphlet, the officers could induce the driver to open his window and observe each driver for signs of intoxication, check for open containers, and signal the appropriate officer if a driver was believed to be intoxicated. If the particular car was not in the diverting pattern, but was believed to present a direct threat to the safety of those operating the roadblock, the car could be diverted.

Twenty-one uniformed police officers participated in the operation. Of the 942 drivers passing through the roadblock, 293 were diverted to an evaluation point. Eleven people, including David Henderson, were arrested for driving while intoxicated.


Article 1, § 17 of the Idaho Constitution provides:

Unreasonable searches and seizures prohibited.--The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures shall not be violated; and no warrant shall issue without probable cause shown by affidavit, particularly describing the place to be searched and the person or thing to be seized. (Emphasis added).

The language of the fourth amendment to the United States Constitution is virtually identical. 1 The essence of the prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures is to "safeguard the privacy and security of individuals against arbitrary invasions of governmental officials." Camara v. Municipal Court, 387 U.S. 523, 528, 87 S.Ct. 1727, 1730, 18 L.Ed.2d 930 (1967); % elaware v. Prouse, 440 U.S. 648, 653, 99 S.Ct. 1391, 1395, 59 L.Ed.2d 660 (1979). The fourth amendment grew out of colonial opposition to the infamous general warrants known as writs of assistance, which empowered British officers to search at will, and to break open receptacles or packages wherever they expected contraband. As the United States Supreme Court stated in Payton v. New York, 445 U.S. 573, 100 S.Ct. 1371, 63 L.Ed.2d 639 (1980):

It is familiar history that indiscriminate searches and seizures conducted under the authority of "general warrants" were the immediate evils that motivated the framing and adoption of the Fourth Amendment. Indeed, as originally proposed in the House of Representatives, the draft contained only one clause, which directly imposed limitations on the issuance of warrants, but imposed no express restrictions on warrantless searches or seizures. As it was ultimately adopted, however, the Amendment contained two separate clauses, the first protecting the basic right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures and the second requiring that warrants be particular and supported by probable cause....

It is thus perfectly clear that the evil the Amendment was designed to prevent was broader than the abuse of a general warrant. Unreasonable searches or seizures conducted without any warrant at all are condemned by the plain language of the first clause of the Amendment. Almost a century ago the Court stated in resounding terms that the principles reflected in the Amendment "reached farther than the concrete form" of the specific cases that gave it birth, and "apply to all invasions on the part of the Government and its employees of the sanctity of a man's home and the privacies of life." Boyd v. United States, 116 U.S. 616, 630 [6 S.Ct. 524, 532, 29 L.Ed. 746].

445 U.S. 573, at 483-485, 100 S.Ct. 1371 at 1378-1379 (footnotes omitted). Warrantless searches are deemed "unreasonable" per se, "subject only to a few specifically established and well-delineated exceptions." Katz v. United States, 389 U.S. 347, 357, 88 S.Ct. 507, 514, 19 L.Ed.2d 576 (1967); State v. Zapp, 108 Idaho 723, 726, 701 P.2d 671, 674 (Ct.App.1985). The court stated in Zapp that there are three categories of encounters between citizens and the police. First is the arrest--a full scale seizure of the person, which the fourth amendment requires to be supported by probable cause. 108 Idaho at 726-727, 701 P.2d at 674-675. Second is the investigative detention--a seizure of limited duration which, when supported by a reasonable suspicion of criminal activity, falls within a judicially created exception to the fourth amendment. Id. See, e.g., Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 88 S.Ct. 1868, 20 L.Ed.2d 889 (1968). Third is voluntary contact, an encounter free of restraint or coercion outside the fourth amendment. Zapp, 108 Idaho at 727, 701 P.2d at 675. See e.g., Florida v. Royer, 460 U.S. 491, 103 S.Ct. 1319, 75 L.Ed.2d 229 (1983). When a vehicle is stopped by a police officer and its occupants are detained, a seizure within the fourth amendment of the United States Constitution and art. 1, § 17 of the Idaho Constitution has occurred, even if the purpose of the stop is limited and the resulting detention is quite brief. Delaware v. Prouse, supra, 440 U.S. 648, 653, 99 S.Ct. 1391, 1396, 59 L.Ed.2d 660 (1979). United States v. Martinez-Fuerte, 428 U.S. 543, 556-558, 96 S.Ct. 3074, 3082-3083, 49 L.Ed.2d 1116 (1976). Thus, at a minimum, precedent suggests that police have individualized suspicion of criminal wrongdoing prior to stopping the driver of an automobile. Prouse, supra. Significantly, all exceptions to the warrant requirement, including a limited Terry stop, require individualized suspicion.

In Terry v. Ohio, supra, 392 U.S. 1, 20, 88 S.Ct. 1868, 1879, 20 L.Ed.2d 889, the Court stated that "the police must, whenever practicable, obtain advance judicial approval of searches and seizures through the warrant procedure." The constitutionality of warrantless roadblocks is a question of first impression in Idaho. Neither this Court nor the Supreme Court of the United States has had occasion to determine whether police use of roadblocks constitutionally justifies recognition of a novel exception to the warrant requirement.


Without question, the drunk driver is one of society's greatest concerns. In 1986, the last year for which information is available, there were 2,584 alcohol related accidents, which comprised 19.2 percent of all accidents which resulted in fatalities or injuries requiring hospitalization. 2 Authorities made 11,611 DUI arrests in 1986. Id. The state has a vital interest in promoting public safety by reducing alcohol-related traffic accidents and by ensuring the fitness of drivers behind the wheel. As was aptly stated by the district court in its memorandum decision:

The weight of a motor vehicle, its ability to attain high speeds that can crush obstacles in its path, its ability to maim and extinguish human life is so great that the state has a compelling interest in insuring that those who operate vehicles on its streets and highways are not impaired by alcohol. The days of social tolerance for drunk drivers have passed. Society has come to realize the devastation caused by drunk drivers. The social cost in ruined lives is too great. It is estimated that drunk drivers kill 25,000 people a year. Annually they cause an estimated one million injuries and $5 billion worth of...

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