Evading roadblocks not evidence of crime
The state's high court has ruled that police cannot stop a vehicle evading a roadblock on suspicion that the driver is intoxicated.
MOTORISTS who turn away from drunken-driving roadblocks have won a victory
in the state Supreme Court, which ruled against police chasing and stopping them on the suspicion that they are intoxicated.
The roadblocks themselves are allowed as long as police select vehicles to be stopped "in a specified numerical sequence or pattern." The practice by Maui police of assigning an officer in a "chase car" to pursue motorists who seem to be fleeing from the funnel to the roadblock without breaking traffic laws is no longer allowed.
The Hawaii case involved Raymond Heapy, 56, a visitor from California, taking a turn from Mokulele Highway between Kahului and Kihei on June 16, 2004, onto a road leading to sugar cane fields and an animal shelter that was closed. He claimed to have been lost, but his blood-alcohol content was slightly above the legal threshold of 0.08.
Chief Justice Ronald Moon cast the only dissent in the ruling, arguing that it "effectively abrogates our state's compelling interest in protecting the safety of the public and combating intoxicated motorists." But police should not need to infringe on people's constitutional rights in order to catch drunken drivers.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issued a guide in 1990 that a driver "who wishes to avoid the checkpoint by legally turning before entering the checkpoint area should be allowed to do so unless a traffic violation(s) is observed or probable cause exists to take other action." Hawaii now joins most states in adhering to court decisions consistent with that policy.
As Justice Simeon Acoba wrote in the majority opinion, Officer Eric Correa's chase and stop of Heapy "would not have occurred but for the existence of the checkpoint." Heapy's evasion of the roadblock falls short of the probable cause required for his detainment.
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