Minnesota DNR seeks to set up roadblocks to check boats

Officials with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources say that they will conduct random roadside checks of Minnesota boaters seeking to enforce Minnesota invasive species laws. The roadblocks were originally slated to start last month, but were put on hold after prosecutors questioned the legal authority for the DNR to conduct the roadblocks.

The U.S Supreme Court has held that DWI checkpoints, often referred to as sobriety checkpoints, are constitutionally permissible under the federal system provided procedures are in place to satisfy fairness.

The Minnesota Supreme Court ruled in 1994 that Minnesota’s Constitution provides us with greater protections against unreasonable government intrusions in holding DWI checkpoints as unconstitutional in the state, after DWI defense lawyers challenged the issue in Minnesota courts.

Generally, law enforcement cannot willy-nilly pull someone over for no apparent reason and later seek criminal charges based upon that traffic stop. Officers need to be able to state an identifiable reason to conduct a traffic stop. Any minor violation may justify a stop.

Now the DNR says that it has the authority to conduct random checkpoints to inspect boats for invasive species. The agency says it will conduct at least 36 checkpoint operations this season. DNR officials apparently believe the DNR operations are more focused than DWI checkpoints-only motorists pulling a boat, and “in proximity” to a boat landing will be pulled over for inspection, according to DNR officials.

The DNR will keep the locations of the checkpoints a secret in advance of setting up the roadblocks. The DNR enforcement chief thinks the plan is constitutional, despite the Minnesota ruling in DWI cases, but he expects someone to challenge the roadblocks.

Source: Minneapolis Star Tribune, “Minnesota boaters will get random road stops this week,” Doug Smith, July 10, 2012

He has won jury trial cases in misdemeanor and felony cases and in DWI’s and non-DWI’s. He is a member of the Minnesota Society for Criminal Justice, which only allows the top 50 criminal defense attorneys in the state as members. He is a frequent speaker at CLE’s and is often asked for advice by other defense attorneys across Minnesota.

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