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Brown v State – Legal Roadblocks must be specifically planned in advance

Brown v. State, S12G1287, October 21, 2013. The Georgia Supreme Court declared the Roadblock in Mr. Brown’s case unconstitutional in violation of the 4th Amendment. On April 6, 2010, there was a complaint about speeding, racing, and littering on Groover Road in Cobb County.  On April 7, 2010, an officer was sent to survey the road for speed enforcement but it was deemed to be curvy. On April 9th a roadblock was decided on but no time or location was determined.  The Sargent supervisor and two officers went out at 6:45 and found a location and set up the roadblock for insurance, licenses, and registration. Brown was arrested for DUI, possession of drugs, and obstruction.  He filed a motion to suppress the roadblock. The Trial Court granted the motion finding the Road Block was not implemented by supervisory officers but by Officers in the field and was not adequately staffed to satisfy Constitutional muster. The Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals and found the Sargent, although an appropriate and authorized supervisor, decided as a field officer and not as a supervisor at the programmatic level because the decision as to the purpose, time, and the location was made in the field and not in advance.

The Supreme Court disapproved of Baker v. State and its progeny.  The Supreme Court found that while inadequate staffing is not per se unconstitutional for a roadblock it does provide evidence of a lack of advanced planning and may have other implications on the LaFontaine and Edmunds factors for Constitutional Roadblocks. The Court also held that the LaFontaine Factors and Edmunds factors should not be merged but analyzed independently.  Finally, the Roadblock even if otherwise legal must be reasonable under the circumstances and not pretextual in nature or harassing.

-Author: George Creal