City of Indianapolis v. Edmond: Facts of the Case
In 1998, the city of Indianapolis, Indiana began to operate vehicle checkpoints in an effort to crackdown on the transport of illegal drugs. At each of these checkpoints, a police officer would conduct an open-view examination of a motorist’s automobile. At the same time, another police officer would walk a narcotics-sniffing dog around the full perimeter of the vehicle. Each was took approximately five minutes or less per vehicle and each motorist—without reasonable suspicion or probable cause—was stopped.
Joel Palmer and James Edmond were stopped at one of these checkpoints. Following inspection they filed a lawsuit on their behalf and on the behalf of the class of motorists who were subjected to the search. The two men alleged that the stop violates citizen’s right to the Fourth Amendment and specifically the search and seizure provision of the state’s constitution.
When the case was originally tried, the District Court denied request for a preliminary injunction, stating that the checkpoint program did not violate the Fourth Amendment. The court of appeals; however, reversed this decision.
City of Indianapolis v. Edmond: What is the Question?
The question in the City of Indianapolis v. Edmond asked whether highway checkpoint programs, whose primary is to discover and impede the flow of illegal drugs, is consistently administered with the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution.
City of Indianapolis v. Edmond: The Decision
The decision in the City of Indianapolis v. Edmond offered a 6 to 3 vote in favor of the individual motorists. The court in City of Indianapolis v. Edmond ruled that the highway checkpoint program administered by the state of Indiana did not remain consistent with the provisions offered in the fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution.
In the 6-3 opinion delivered in the City of Indianapolis v. Edmond, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor ruled that because the program’s primary purpose was indistinguishable from the general interest in drug control, the checkpoint’s violated the provisions of the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. The court in City of Indianapolis v. Edmond stated that it could not sanction stops justified only by the possibility that inspection may reveal that a given motorist has committed some sort of crime.
William Rehnquist, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas were the three Supreme Court Justices who dissented from this opinion. In the case of City of Indianapolis v. Edmond, these justices believed that the reasonableness of the city’s checkpoint program depends on whether the operation served a significant state interest with minimal intrusion on the state’s motor vehicle operators.