State v. Ashworth, ___ N.C. App. ___, 790 S.E.2d 173 (Aug. 2, 2016)

In this impaired driving case, the trial court erred by denying the defendant’s motion to suppress, which had asserted that a checkpoint stop violated his constitutional rights. When considering a constitutional challenge to a checkpoint, a two-part inquiry applies: the court must first determine the primary programmatic purpose of the checkpoint; if a legitimate primary programmatic purpose is found the court must judge its reasonableness. The defendant did not raise an issue about whether the checkpoint had a proper purpose. The court noted when determining reasonableness, it must weigh the public’s interest in the checkpoint against the individual’s fourth amendment privacy interest. Applying the Brown v. Texas three-part test (gravity of the public concerns served by the seizure; the degree to which the seizure advances the public interest; and the severity of the interference with individual liberty) to this balancing inquiry, the court held that the trial court’s findings of fact did not permit the judge to meaningfully weigh the considerations required under the second and third prongs of the test. This constituted plain error.

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