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Sequoia: Appellate Court Affirms Decision On Checkpoint Stops

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avatar Sequoia: Appellate Court Affirms Decision On Checkpoint Stops
August 27, 2009 05:33PM
Appellate Court Affirms Decision On Checkpoint Stops

On October 13, 2007, park rangers conducted a wildlife checkpoint near the entrance station in the Grant Grove sub-district of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks aimed at the mitigation of illegal taking of animals within the park.

During the operation, rangers detected the odor of alcohol on the breath of a driver whose vehicle was stopped at the checkpoint. They subsequently arrested the driver for operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol, driving while under the influence of alcohol content in excess of .08, and possession of an open container of alcohol in a motor vehicle. In a motion to suppress, the defendant argued that the suspicionless stop of his vehicle was unconstitutional. After conducting the evidentiary hearing, the magistrate judge rendered an oral ruling denying the defendant’s motion to suppress.

The defendant appealed the ruling to the district court, which affirmed the magistrate judge. On July 14th, the United States Court of Appeals for he Ninth Circuit affirmed the lower court's decision. In the opinion, Circuit Judge Silverman wrote: "We hold today that a momentary checkpoint stop of all vehicles at the entrance of a national park, aimed at preventing illegal hunting – which is minimally intrusive, justified by a legitimate concern for the preservation of park wildlife and the prevention of irreparable harm, directly related to the operation of the park, and confined to the park gate where visitors would expect to briefly stop – is reasonable under the Fourth Amendment."

The citation is United States of America v. Ricardo Fraire, No. 08-10448, D.C. No. 1:08-MJ-00006-SMS.
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