Michigan Department of State Police v. Sitz


Significance: The Supreme Court upheld the use of drunken driving checkpoints under certain conditions.

A group of licensed drivers sued Michigan, challenging the constitutionality of a state law and program that set up drunken driving checkpoints designed to catch people driving under the influence. They argued that the checkpoints constituted an illegal search and seizure under the Fourth Amendment. Lower courts ruled against the program, but by a 6-3 vote, the Supreme Court upheld the Michigan statute and program. The Court maintained that the lower courts had misread the relevant cases, United States v. Martinez-Fuerte (1976) and Brown v. Texas (1979). In the opinion for the Court, Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist agreed that Michigan had a legitimate interest in trying to curb drunken driving. Justice Harry A. Blackmun concurred, and Justices William J. Brennan, Jr., Thurgood Marshall, and John Paul Stevens dissented.