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Traffic Stops and Public Health and Safety - Commonwealth v. Rodriguez, 430 Mass. 577, 722 N.E.2d 429 (Mass. 2000)

Defendant was stopped as part of a temporary roadblock set up by the police to deter narcotics trafficking.  Defendant was driving with a suspended license and the police officer believed he smelled marijuana in the car.  Defendant was arrested for the traffic violation and the car was searched with a drug sniffing dog.  Cigar ends containing marijuana were found and defendant was charged with possession.  Defendant moved to suppress the evidence and the motion for suppression was approved by the trial judge.  The state appealed.  The Massachusetts Supreme Court upheld the suppression, finding that there was not a direct relationship between driving and the harm to be prevented, i.e., drug dealing.   The court explained that traffic roadblocks for drunks are constitutional because the threat to the public health is immediate and is related to driving.  The court endorses the United States Supreme Court's three part balancing test from Brown v. Texas, 443 U.S. 47 (1979) to determine whether a give public health and safety measure will be constituently.

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