Gary D. Stumpp


The authority of the police to enforce the statutory restrictions governing vehicle and traffic laws has often been considered to be concomitant with a right to stop motorists arbitrarily to determine their compliance. Recently, some courts have eroded this power, to protect the constitutional rights guaranteed to individuals under the fourth amendment. In their consideration of these arbitrary automobile stops, the courts have utilized a balancing process. They consider the state interest in promoting public safety on the highways through the guaranteed enforcement of the relevant laws, as well as the duty of the police to detect and control crime. Additionally, there is the interest of the individual in unrestricted travel and his penumbral right of privacy under the United States Constitution. The elements considered by the courts in the balancing process have not changed; rather, it is the weight attached to each which is outcome determinative. The courts initially permitted such stops in all instances. Later, this was restricted to some degree. Now, however, some courts have held the individual’s rights to be paramount. This Comment will survey the judicial tests that have been developed to eliminate arbitrary stops, and examine their effectiveness in protection the rights of motorists.