You have to love stories like this account of a “successful” narcotics checkpoint set up by police in DeRidder, Louisiana,
The Beauregard Parish Sheriff’s Office set up a Narcotics Checkpoint Thursday night near Starks, Louisiana. Due to several complaints coming from the Fields area, the BPSO put together a joint operation with the help of Sheriff Ricky Moses and the DeRidder city police department. The operations utilized several BPSO deputies as well as the new Drug Interdiction team led by Detectives Dale Sharp and Greg Hill. Seven police units total were used for the operation in addition to 4 other units performing regular patrols.
. . .
Shortly after dark, it was apparent that the team’s presence was making an impact. Detectives Julian Williams, Craig Richard, and Sharp recovered an estimated quarter pound of marijuana tossed out of a vehicle window and onto the highway. If sold, the drugs would have earned a possible $300. “They saw us and panicked,” explains Sharp.
Sharp also stated that more checkpoints could be orchestrated in the future at different locations. “Definitely,” says Sharp. “As more complaints come in, we will be doing more.”
The checkpoint produced 3 arrests for possession of marijuana and hydrocodone, 2 misdemeanor summons for possession of marijuana, and 30 traffic citations. Officers also recovered a small amount of hydrocodone pills and approximately a half pound of marijuana total.
The only problem here is that the Supreme Court in 2000 ruled in City of Indianapolis v. Edmond that checkpoints designed to discover illegal drugs are unconstitutional (largely because they are suspicionless searches aimed at general crime control rather than, say, drunk driving checkpoints which are suspicionless but aimed directly at keeping the roads safe from drivers under the influence).
Reason Magazine, where I first read about this, notes that once this was pointed out the police department in question backpedaled on the checkpoints, telling The Drug War Chronicle.
There just happened to be narcotics officers out there, and it just so happened that we did our safety checkpoint in a certain area where the place is known for drug trafficking. It just so happened they were all in the right place at the right time.
And just so everyone understands how screwed up the legal situation is here, at least one state — Colorado — has held that even though narcotics checkpoints are illegal, fake narcotics checkpoints are completely legal. That’s right, police can put up signs saying “Narcotics Checkpoint 1 mile ahead” and that the Supreme Court has ruled that is completely legal. Apparently jurisdictions that have done this then place cops with binoculars to look for people tossing drugs out of windows when they see the signs, at which point they recover the drugs and arrest the passengers in the vehicle.
(In general, it is amazing the extent to which police are generally allowed to lie in the performance of official duties in situations where the people they are lying to could potentially be subject to criminal prosecution for employing similar tactics with police).