Illinois v. Lidster, 540 U.S. 419 (2004)

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certiorari to the supreme court of illinois

No. 02-1060. Argued November 5, 2003—Decided January 13, 2004

Police set up a highway checkpoint to obtain information from motorists about a hit-and-run accident occurring about one week earlier at the same location and time of night. Officers stopped each vehicle for 10 to 15 seconds, asked the occupants whether they had seen anything happen there the previous weekend, and handed each driver a flyer describing and requesting information about the accident. As respondent Lidster approached, his minivan swerved, nearly hitting an officer. The officer smelled alcohol on Lidster's breath. Another officer administered a sobriety test and then arrested Lidster. He was convicted in Illinois state court of driving under the influence of alcohol. He challenged his arrest and conviction on the ground that the government obtained evidence through use of a checkpoint stop that violated the Fourth Amendment. The trial court rejected that challenge, but the state appellate court reversed. The State Supreme Court agreed, holding that, in light of Indianapolis v. Edmond, 531 U. S. 32, the stop was unconstitutional.

Held: The checkpoint stop did not violate the Fourth Amendment.

Pp. 423-428. (a) Edmond does not govern the outcome of this case. In Edmond, this Court held that, absent special circumstances, the Fourth Amendment forbids police to make stops without individualized suspicion at a checkpoint set up primarily for general "crime control" purposes. 531 U. S., at 41, 44. Specifically, the checkpoint in Edmond was designed to ferret out drug crimes committed by the motorists themselves. Here, the stop's primary law enforcement purpose was not to determine whether a vehicle's occupants were committing a crime, but to ask the occupants, as members of the public, for help in providing information about a crime in all likelihood committed by others. Edmond's language, as well as its context, makes clear that an information-seeking stop's constitutionality was not then before this Court. Pp. 423-424. (b) Nor does the Fourth Amendment require courts to apply an Edmond-type rule of automatic unconstitutionality to such stops. The fact that they normally lack individualized suspicion cannot by itself determine the constitutional outcome, as the Fourth Amendment does not treat a motorist's car as his castle, see, e. g., New York v. Class, 475 U. S. 106, 112-113, and special law enforcement concerns will sometimes


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