Illinios vs. Lidster Case Brief: Legalization of Roadblocks for Investigations
Just after midnight on August 23, 1997, a 70-year old man riding his bike was struck and killed by a motorist on a highway in Lombard, Illinois. Exactly one week later at the same time and place, police set up a roadblock, stopping each passing motorist and handing out flyers looking for information on the hit-and-run.
When Robert Lidster was stopped at the roadblock, the officer smelled alcohol on his breath. Lidster was sent to perform field sobriety tests, and was later tried and convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol.
Lidster challenged the arrest, claiming that the checkpoint violated the Fourth Amendment. The trial court rejected the challenge, but the Illinois Appellate Court and the Illinois Supreme Court accepted it. As such, the case made it to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Does the Fourth Amendment allow police officers to set up a roadblock in search of information about an incident? Does legalization of roadblocks for investigations violate the Fourth Amendment?
The Supreme Court ruled that the checkpoint stop was constitutional. Because police were investigating a human death, which is a serious concern of the general public; the stops were brief and provided little reason for anxiety or alarm; and police did not stop any vehicle in a discriminatory manner, the checkpoint does not violate the Fourth Amendment.
What Does Illinois vs. Lidster Mean for You?
The ruling in the Illinois vs. Lidster case means that depending on the circumstance, police are able to set up roadblocks and stop drivers passing through in the search for information. Because these stops are required to be quick, they shouldn’t be all that disruptive. Assuming you don’t drink and drive, you have absolutely nothing to worry about, and you’ll be on your way.