State v. Martin

Decision Date30 April 1985
Docket NumberNo. 84-108,84-108
Citation496 A.2d 442,145 Vt. 562
CourtVermont Supreme Court
PartiesSTATE of Vermont v. Donald E. MARTIN.

Richard G. English, Addison County State's Atty., Middlebury, for plaintiff-appellant.

Langrock, Sperry, Parker & Wool, Middlebury, for defendant-appellee.



The State by an interlocutory appeal seeks to overturn the trial court's ruling that a temporary police roadblock (hereinafter referred to as a DUI roadblock), established for the purpose of screening motor vehicle operators for those who may be driving while under the influence of intoxicating liquor, in violation of 23 V.S.A. § 1201(a)(1) or (2), 1 constituted a violation of the defendant's Fourth Amendment rights. The manner in which the instant roadblock was conducted did not constitute a per se violation of the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. 2 We therefore vacate the trial court's order granting the defendant's motion to suppress, and remand for a new hearing with direction to the trial court that it must consider the criteria hereinafter noted in this opinion when it rules on the constitutionality of this DUI roadblock. 3

In order to understand the issues presented by this case, it is important to set forth clearly its procedural history. On November 12, 1983, after having been stopped at a DUI roadblock, the defendant was arrested for driving while under the influence of intoxicating liquor, a violation of 23 V.S.A. § 1201(a)(2). At his arraignment two days later, the defendant pleaded not guilty. Subsequently, the defendant filed a motion to suppress any statements made by him to, and any observations made of him by, the two arresting police officers at the time he was stopped at the roadblock. Following a hearing, the trial court granted the defendant's motion to suppress, finding that the State had failed in its burden of proof to show the necessity for the use of DUI roadblocks to combat the problem of drunk drivers.

Thereafter, the State sought reargument on the defendant's motion to suppress. The trial court granted that request and, on the basis of new evidence submitted at the second hearing, amended its findings to show that the State had proved the necessity for the use of DUI roadblocks. Notwithstanding, the trial court further found that the rules, regulations and guidelines under which the instant DUI roadblock was conducted provided inadequate standards and criteria for the operation of such roadblock, and, therefore, affirmed its earlier grant of the defendant's motion to suppress. Thereafter the trial court at the State's request made supplemental findings of fact concerning the operation of this DUI roadblock and, pursuant to 13 V.S.A. § 7403 (Supp.1984) and V. R.A.P. 5(b)(1) (Supp.1984), granted the State's motion for an interlocutory appeal of the suppression order.


The primary contention of the defendant is that the roadblock violated his rights under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution, and that all evidence stemming from that roadblock should be excluded from his subsequent trial. The stopping of an automobile for questioning by police officers constitutes a seizure, thereby generating the protections of the Fourth Amendment. Delaware v. Prouse, 440 U.S. 648, 653, 99 S.Ct. 1391, 1395, 59 L.Ed.2d 660 (1979). A number of state courts have held that the protection afforded by the Fourth Amendment is applicable to DUI roadblocks. State v. Superior Court, 143 Ariz. 45, 47, 691 P.2d 1073, 1075-76 (1984); State v. Deskins, 234 Kan. 529, 532, 673 P.2d 1174, 1178 (1983); Little v. State, 300 Md. 485, 493, 479 A.2d 903, 907 (1984); People v. Scott, 63 N.Y.2d 518, 524-25, 473 N.E.2d 1, 3, 483 N.Y.S.2d 649, 651 (1984). We agree with these courts and hold that DUI roadblocks constitute a seizure within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment. The inquiry therefore turns to whether the DUI roadblock conducted in the present case constituted an unreasonable seizure, and thereby violated any rights guaranteed to the defendant by the Fourth Amendment.


In examining seizures subject to scrutiny under the Fourth Amendment, the defendant argues that warrantless seizures without probable cause (as was the case with the instant DUI roadblock) are per se unreasonable, and therefore violate Fourth Amendment safeguards. The United States Supreme Court (hereinafter referred to as the Supreme Court), however, has stated that a warrantless seizure was not per se invalid in an instance where an automobile was stopped for a document check. Prouse, supra, 440 U.S. at 663, 99 S.Ct. at 1401. This Court agrees and, along with other state courts, now holds that a warrantless seizure at a DUI roadblock is not per se illegal. See, e.g., Little, supra, 300 Md. at 493-94, 479 A.2d at 907.

The defendant argues that there must be at least a reasonable and articulable suspicion on the part of a law enforcement officer to stop an automobile at a DUI roadblock. The Supreme Court recently noted that "[i]n ... contexts [other than school searches], however, we have held that although 'some quantum of individualized suspicion is usually a prerequisite to a constitutional search or seizure[,] ... the Fourth Amendment imposes no irreducible requirement of such suspicion.' " New Jersey v. T.L.O., 469 U.S. ----, ----, 105 S.Ct. 733, 744 n. 8, 83 L.Ed. 720 (1985) (quoting United States v. Martinez-Fuerte, 428 U.S. 543, 560-61, 96 S.Ct. 3074, 3084, 49 L.Ed.2d 1116 (1976) ). We agree that police officers conducting a DUI roadblock do not necessarily have to have a warrant, probable cause, or even a reasonable, articulable, individualized suspicion of illegal activity in order to stop a motorist on the public highway. See, e.g., People v. Scott, supra, 63 N.Y.2d at 524-25, 473 N.E.2d at 3, 483 N.Y.S.2d at 651. We hold that the constitutionality of a DUI roadblock under the Fourth Amendment will depend upon the reasonableness of the seizure, determined by weighing the public interest in the seizure against the degree of intrusion into personal privacy occasioned by the particular DUI roadblock. State v. Hilleshiem, 291 N.W.2d 314, 317 (Iowa 1980); Deskins, supra, 234 Kan. at 541, 673 P.2d at 1184; People v. Scott, supra 63 N.Y.2d at 524-26, 473 N.E.2d at 3-4, 483 N.Y.S.2d at 651-52. Thus, each case must be decided upon its own facts.


In considering the two factors which we have stated must be weighed in the balancing test for reviewing the constitutionality of temporary DUI roadblocks, we first address the one involving the governmental or public interest.

We take judicial notice of the serious threat posed to public safety by the frequency with which individuals, while under the influence of intoxicating liquor, continue to operate motor vehicles on the public highways. The Supreme Court has noted the severity of this problem:

The situation underlying this case--that of the drunk driver--occurs with tragic frequency on our Nation's highways. The carnage caused by drunk drivers is well documented and needs no detailed recitation here. This Court, although not having the daily contact with the problem that the state courts have, has repeatedly lamented the tragedy.

South Dakota v. Neville, 459 U.S. 553, 558, 103 S.Ct. 916, 920, 74 L.Ed.2d 748 (1983); see also Prouse, supra, 440 U.S. at 659 n. 18, 99 S.Ct. at 1399 n. 18 (state interest in the apprehension of drunk drivers is subsumed in the general state interest in roadway safety). This problem has also been recognized by the other branches of the federal government. In 1982, Congress enacted a set of guidelines for states to follow in establishing alcohol traffic safety programs, in order to obtain federal grants. 23 U.S.C.A. § 408 (Supp.1985). In 1982, President Reagan appointed a commission to investigate the national drunk driving problem. Exec. Order No. 12,358, 47 Fed.Reg. 16311 (1982).

Both the legislative and the executive branches of Vermont government have taken steps to investigate the problems posed by driving while under the influence of intoxicating liquor and have proposed new strategies to reduce the incidence of driving while under the influence of intoxicating liquor. The problem of drunk drivers has long been, and continues to be, a serious threat to public safety.

DUI roadblocks serve the public interest in different but related ways. On the one hand, DUI roadblocks are a safety measure, operating as one method of detecting motorists driving while under the influence of intoxicating liquor. The arrest of an individual immediately removes such driver from the public highway, eliminating at least one immediate (albeit temporary) threat to public safety. For those suspects who are subsequently convicted of driving while under the influence of intoxicating liquor, pursuant to the provisions of 23 V.S.A. § 1201 (1978 and Supp.1984), the penalties imposed under 23 V.S.A. §§ 1206, 1208 (Supp.1984) will suspend or revoke their right to legally operate a motor vehicle on a public highway.

On the other hand, DUI roadblocks act to further the public interest in reducing the number of motorists driving while under the influence of intoxicating liquor by acting as a deterrent to any person who might consider driving after drinking. Once the public is aware that DUI roadblocks are not per se illegal, and may be utilized by state and local law enforcement authorities, drivers are more likely to think carefully about the possibility of being apprehended and prosecuted for driving while under the influence of intoxicating liquor.

Referring again to the balancing test, the second factor to be weighed in determining the constitutionality of a DUI roadblock is the degree to which a stop at any given DUI roadblock intrudes upon an individual's legitimate and reasonable expectation of privacy. While the Supreme Court has stated that individuals have a...

To continue reading

Request your trial
34 cases
  • Richard T., In re
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals Court of Appeals
    • September 19, 1986
    ...of the procedure; (l) any other relevant circumstances." (State v. Jones (Fla.1986) 483 So.2d 433, 437.) (See also State v. Martin (1985) 145 Vt. 562, 496 A.2d 442, 448; Commonwealth v. McGeoghegan (1983) 389 Mass. 137, 449 N.E.2d 349.)Although approving the roadblock it examined, the Kansa......
  • Com. v. Trumble
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts Supreme Court
    • October 15, 1985
    ...v. Scott, 63 N.Y.2d 518, 483 N.Y.S.2d 649, 473 N.E.2d 1 (1984); State v. Shankle, 58 Or.App. 134, 647 P.2d 959 (1982); State v. Martin, 496 A.2d 442 (Vt.1985); State v. Coccomo, 177 N.J.Super. 575, 427 A.2d 131 (1980). See also People v. Meitz, 95 Ill.App.3d 1033, 51 Ill.Dec. 561, 420 N.E.2......
  • State v. Sprague, 02-028.
    • United States
    • Vermont Supreme Court
    • February 21, 2003
    ...we recognized that we were balancing the public's safety interest against the privacy interest of motorists. See State v. Martin, 145 Vt. 562, 568, 496 A.2d 442, 446-47 (1985). This Court up-held roadblocks if they met a number of In addressing the constitutionality of a particular DUI road......
  • State v. Lussier
    • United States
    • Vermont Supreme Court
    • April 28, 2000
    ...of the statute, roadblocks could be set up without regard to the carefully considered strictures set forth in State v. Martin, 145 Vt. 562, 571, 496 A.2d 442, 448 (1985), and adopted under Article 11 in State v. Record, 150 Vt. 84, 88, 90, 548 A.2d 422, 425, 426 (1988). License suspensions ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
1 books & journal articles

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