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After "Sitz:" Another Look at Roadblock Stops, Drunk Drivers, and the Oregon Constitution

NCJ Number
Williamette Law Review Volume: 27 Issue: 2 Dated: (Spring 1991) Pages: 301-323
M Farmer
Date Published
23 pages
This article examines Oregon case law to test the validity of the assumption that article I, section 9 of the Oregon Constitution that precludes the use of administrative search or seizure programs (notably roadblocks to detect drunk drivers) if criminal prosecution is a potential consequence.
During the 1990 term, the U.S. Supreme Court, in Michigan Department of State Police v. Sitz, held a Michigan police program that involves the use of roadblocks to find drunk drivers to be consistent with the fourth amendment of the U.S. Constitution. This ruling has no direct effect on Oregon, however, because the Oregon Supreme Court ruled in 1987 that suspicionless roadblock stops initiated by police are unconstitutional under article I, section 9 of the Oregon Constitution. This section is virtually identical to the fourth amendment of the U.S. Constitution in protecting citizens against unreasonable searches and seizures. The Oregon Supreme Court has made a distinction between searches and seizures conducted for regulatory purposes and those conducted to uncover evidence of a crime, ruling that roadblocks cannot be used to detect criminal drunk driving. The Oregon Supreme Court has not explained why an administrative program that involves roadblock stops is constitutional merely because there are no criminal penalties attached to violations detected. Neither has it explained why such an administrative program, if otherwise a reasonable attempt to prevent or correct a serious social problem authorized by politically accountable lawmakers, is unconstitutional merely because those few who may be in violation of the law face criminal penalties. 148 footnotes