It's rare that I get to praise an opinion by Judge Sentelle, but today's the day.
Yesterday the DC Circuit released Caneisha Mills v. DC, [link fixed] an appeal of the trial court's failure to enjoin the District of Columbia's police department's so-called neighborhood safety zone (NSZ) plan. Tthe NSZ put a police cordon around a high crime neighborhood in DC. Police would stop every car going into the neighborhood, but not pedestrians or cars exiting, and interrogate the drivers as to why they were going there. If the answers were not satisfactory, the police would not let the driver enter. According to the court, 48 vehicles were turned away during the operation of the program.
The panel ruled unanimously that these suspicionless stops violated the Fourth Amendment. It distinguished all the other roadblock cases, including United States v. Martinez-Fuerte, in which the Supreme Court permitted suspicionless routine stops of vehicles at checkpoints on major roads leading away from the Mexican border — even quite far from the border. Instead, Sentelle relied on City of Indianapolis v. Edmond, 531 U.S. 32, 48 (2000) (“Because the primary purpose of the Indianapolis checkpoint program is ultimately indistinguishable from the general interest in crime control, the checkpoints violate the Fourth Amendment.”).
Notably absent from the Court's opinion was any suggestion that motorists have a duty to identify themselves to police in the absence of a Terry stop (one based on some suspicion of wrongdoing),
Overall, it's a right decision, and good one for civil liberties.