Michigan Department of State Police vs. Sitz

Subject: Law
Type: Exploratory Essay
Pages: 4
Word count: 1122
Topics: Law Enforcement, Driving, Drunk Driving, Police, Transportation

In the state of Michigan, the state police developed a way in which police would initiate sop searches on roads to curb drunk driving. For this reasons, check point were erected in highways as drivers would be randomly stopped as questioned. Normally the drivers would be allowed to continue driving after a short period of time. However, in instances where the police develop any suspicion of intoxication on the driver, they would be mandated to take sobriety tests. This would include verbal and physical examination. The decision by the state to develop these laws saw opposition from residents as they termed the laws to be infringing on the fourth amendment. This saw the rise of the legal battle between Rick Sitz and the Michigan Department of Police.

The main issue that backed the case presented by Sitz is that the Michigan police department decision to stop and search drivers violated the fourth amendment rights that prohibit unreasonable search and seizure. In this case, the stops could be termed as unreasonable considering that the police on most occasions would stop motorists randomly without full proof or intoxication. For this reason, the plaintiff argued that the stop and search was unreasonable and therefore sought the aid of the court to stop application of the law. Also, Sitz’s main presentation was based on the irrelevance waste of time for motorist who may have been stopped and found not to be intoxicated, and still have to go through the lengthy sobriety tests.

The Appellate Court

The appellate court of Michigan main consideration of the case is the relevance of roadblocks in addressing the problem of drunk driving. Firstly, the judges recognized the fact that unannounced roadblocks were the only way police could be able to track down of offences, and for this reason the laws were necessary. In addition, the court firstly recognized drunk driving is a huge problem in the United States, and it should be addressed in the most accurate way as possible.

However, regardless of these positions, the court then sought to understand how relevant roadblocks were the most relevant solution to address drunk driving. The court recognized the fact that unannounced roadblocks were a huge inconvenience to the motorists. This is because at first the reason for creating the roadblock is not explained in advance to warrant the motorists to cooperate, and also the huge traffic snarl up caused by directing traffic to one lane is a huge inconvenience to the motorists. Consequently, motorists would have to endure time wastage in caused traffic by the police, and for reasons that were not clearly explained. The court found this to be infringing on the citizens’ rights. In the ruling, the court found it important for citizens to be initially notified on an erected roadblock, and the reasons to warrant the roadblock. If this is done, it becomes an irrelevant solution to curb drunk driving. For this reason, the appellate court termed the police decision as not much relevant in addressing drunken driving problem in the state. Also, the erection of roadblocks and unexpected searches are normally done during criminal searches, which means using them of identifying drunk drivers would infringe of the citizens’ liberty (Michigan Department of State Police v. Sitz). For these reasons, the court sought to dismiss the implementation of the police regulation in Michigan. The appellate court was acting to address the problem not from a national perspective, but from a local perspective on what impact the actions by the police would affect the local community.

Supreme Court

In the Supreme Court presentation of the case, the main submissions were done by the Michigan State Police who sought to prove that the laws developed were within reasonable search and seizure. The decision by the police to move to court was warranted as a group of Michigan residents went to court challenging the legality of the police erecting unexplained roadblocks to identify drunk drivers. Also, the residents cited the residents cited that the laws infringed on their liberty rights, as well as a waste of time considering the time taken to go completely gauge all stopped drivers in traffic.

Firstly, the plaintiff highlighted the need to address drunk driving within the state which was becoming a huge problem. Also, the police defended the erection of unannounced roadblock citing that this was the only way that they could drivers who are driving under the influence. In addition, the police also the time taken to identify a drunk driver was very minimal, as suspected were the only group taken through longer sobriety tests.

The ruling of the Supreme Court was based solely on the relevance of the police roadblocks, and whether the fourth amendment right of stop and seizure were reasonable. The bench first recognized the fact that the only way drunk driver could be identified is by erecting unexplained roadblocks, and this was necessary considering the drunken driving problem across the country. In addition, the court also mentioned that the time taken to identify a drunk driver was very minimal only suspect cases of intoxication warranted further tests. From these provisions, the court explained the actions by the police were within reasonable reason to warrant search and seizure as the practice sought to address a serious national problem. In addition, the bench also cited that the time taken during the searches were minimal to warrant any personal liberty infringement claims (Michigan Department of State Police v. Sitz). For this reason, the supreme has given a go ahead for the police to implement the developed practices towards cracking down on drunk drivers.

There are huge jurisdictional differences between the state and federal courts. State courts have a huge mandate as they are allowed to listen to all cases, but limited to cases filed against the United States and specific cases on certain federal laws (Porterfield  & Jeremy, 2017). On the other hand, the jurisdiction of federal courts is limited. The jurisdiction of the federal courts are provided for in the constitution, and provided for by the congress.  Federal courts are allow only to hears cases involving violation of federal courts or the U.S constitutions, citizens from different states as well cases that the U.S is mentioned as a party. The courts may also hear patent, maritime, copyright and bankruptcy cases.

The case Michigan Department of State Police vs. Sitz can be mentioned in a state of federal court. The suit involves a state matter which could be heard in the state court. On the other hand, the claim of infringement of the fourth amendment by the State Police is a violation of the U.S constitution which can be heard in federal court (Posner, 1999).

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  1. Michigan Department of State Police v. Sitz.” Oyez, 12 Oct. 2017, www.oyez.org/cases/1989/88-1897.
  2. Porterfield, E. & Jeremy, W. (2017). Civil Procedure in Focus. New York: Wolters Kluwer Law & Business.
  3. Posner, R. (1999). The Federal Courts. Harvard: Harvard University Press.
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