A Thursday afternoon police “license checkpoint” in a residential Albemarle County neighborhood netted at least one violator, as resident Joe Draego refused to comply with demands to produce his identification.
The scene on Old Brook Road was intimidating. Rattled neighbors and passers-through were confused and alarmed by the presence of large orange road signs and multiple unmarked Albemarle County police vehicles with lights flashing—some residents feared neighborhood criminal activity. At least six officers were on-site concurrently.
Police solicited most drivers for their “ID” or “drivers license;” however, some motorists were asked to also produce vehicle registration documentation.
Compliance with police requests was nearly 100%, but Joe Draego said, “no.” Claiming he’d done nothing wrong and verifying with police that he’d not committed a crime, Draego would not display his ID to the requesting officer. As a result of his resistance, Mr. Draego was threatened with a “warrant,” to be delivered to his home the following day.
The legality of drivers license checkpoints is dubious, at best, having been called into question by legal interpretations of United States Supreme Court decisions on the practice.
Florida attorney, Frank Russo, summarized his concerns:
In our view, the “Daytime drivers license and vehicle inspection checkpoints” contemplated by the FHP are more akin to those vehicle stops previously determined to be unconstitutional in City of Indianapolis v. Edmond . The court in Edmond was adamant that checkpoint programs whose primary purpose were indistinguishable in combating general crime control are an unlawful violation of the fourth amendment. The Supreme court stated:
“We decline to suspend the usual requirement of individualized suspicion where the police seek to employ a checkpoint primarily for the ordinary enterprise of investigating crimes. We cannot sanction stops justified only by the generalized ever present possibility that interrogation and inspection may reveal that any given motorist has committed some crime.”
Following the violent ABC takedown of three young women who had just purchased bottled water at a local supermarket and other hyper-militarized police activities in the Charlottesville area, citizens are understandably on edge.
The Rutherford Institute, a local civil liberties organization, has expressed interest in defending Mr. Draego against any charges brought by police.