Are Genesee County Narcotic Checkpoints Constitutional?
Sobriety checkpoints on the road have been ruled to be unconstitutional in Michigan. That hasn’t stopped Genesee County Sheriff Robert Pickell from warning motorists in the last few weeks that there is a “sheriff’s narcotic checkpoint” ahead. It is suspected that any such narcotics checkpoints do not actually exist, as Genesee County officials surely know that they are illegal in Michigan. However, that hasn’t stopped police officers from making traffic stops if they notice traffic violations, such as U-turns, from drivers who see the warning. During those traffic stops, if the officer finds any illegal drugs in the vehicle, they will turn that over to the Genesee County Prosecutor’s office for pursing criminal charges.
A spokeswoman from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) argues that police need probable cause to search a vehicle for drugs, and that turning away from a warned drug checkpoint does not provide such probable cause. “Not wanting your rights to be violated is not a valid reason [to make a stop],” the spokeswoman said. The United States Constitution protects our right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures, and when police violate that right by conducting an illegal search, the evidence they discover during the search may be suppressed in court.
There may be political motivation to what Sheriff Pickell is doing with the narcotic checkpoint signs. In 2001, Pickell formed The Posse of Narcotics Investigators team, which groups undercover officers from the Mt. Morrice Township, Flint Township, and Genesee Township police departments. However, the Genesee County Board of Commissioners voted to eliminate funding for The Possee for the fiscal year starting October 1st. Pickell was allowed to complete active investigations, but there is no funding available for new investigations of criminal activity. An article on the subject written by Ron Fonger states, “Sheriff Robert Pickell, faced with the prospect of losing his undercover drug team in a matter of months, apparently plans to go out with a bang—and at least a war of words with the American Civil Liberties Union.”
If you or someone you know is facing an investigation or charge for any type of drug crime, you need to talk to a top-notch criminal defense attorney. Don’t wait until it is too late!