The police ran a roadblock to ask drivers about a recent accident that happened there. Was the roadblock legal?
Informational roadblocks, set up to ask drivers if they have any information about a recent accident or other criminal incident, are legal. The police are not seeking incriminating evidence about the drivers or occupants, but rather, are asking for help. The value to society in aiding police solve serious crimes outweighs the invasion of the occupants' privacy. (Illinois v. Lidster, U.S. Supreme Court, 2004.)
If the informational roadblock was operated correctly--for crime-solving purposes only--and it inadvertantly leads to the discovery of contraband, the police may seize that material. In addition, any criminal behavior by the car's occupants (such as attempting to evade the stop) can lead to an arrest. For example, someone who almost runs over an officer conducting the stop, because the driver was drunk, may validly be arrested for drunk driving.
by: Janet Portman, Attorney