Constitutionality of Oswego Police Department’s Vehicle Checkpoints

To The Editor:

The Oswego City Police Department has conducted checkpoints along various locations of Route 104 on Aug 23, 28, 29, 30 and September 6. The reason given for these checkpoints is to look for registration and seatbelt violations.

Checkpoints that are deemed constitutional in the United States consist of DUI checkpoints (in 39 states, NY included), border crossing checkpoints, and TSA checkpoints.

Any other type of police checkpoint, except in extreme circumstances, is an unconstitutional tactic used to ensure compliance with a given law.

All citizens facing a checkpoint will be presumed guilty, having their person and property searched for compliance. This presumptive tactic does not justify a reasonable search, as well as satisfy the probable cause statute, set forth by the Constitution.

The Fourth Amendment states, ”The right of the people to be secure in their persons, papers, houses and effects, from unreasonable search and seizure, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue but upon probable cause.”

By conducting these checkpoints the Oswego City Police department is eroding citizens’ constitutional rights.

One of the most sacred principles in the American justice system is the concept of being innocent until proven guilty. The recent checkpoints are assuming guilt until proven innocent.

In addition, the Supreme Court and articles of confederation have long recognized freedom of movement as a fundamental constitutional right (Corfield v. Coryell 1823 and Article 4, respectively).

Several New York cases such as People vs Scott (1984), People v. Richmond (1997), People v. Smith (1996) and People v. Holley (1993) make it clear that procedures and protocols for DUI checkpoints must be in writing.

Even though the recent checkpoints in Oswego have been for registration and seatbelts and not DUI, the aforementioned protocols and procedures have been ignored.

Some may say, “If you’re not doing anything wrong, there is nothing to be afraid of.

This line of thinking is dangerous. The Constitution and Supreme Court of the United States have granted citizens the right to free travel, the protection from unreasonable search and seizure, and the presumption of being innocent until proven guilty.

The recent checkpoints in Oswego go against the very fabric of our nation, and inherently take away the freedoms our founding fathers granted us.

Bert Genson



  1. Never have I been presumed guilty at a checkpoint. Never have I been searched. This doesn’t fall under unlawful search and seizure because they aren’t searching or seizing unless they have reasonable doubt when they see an issue with your registration, inspection, or you’re suspected of being under the influence. Go take a constitutional law class before you act like you know it. You do not know the law better than the Supreme Court. If these checkpoints stop ONE drunk driver from killing someone then it’s worth it 100%.

  2. M D, the very nature of a checkpoint presumes guilt by the police before innocence. A checkpoint forces you to stop and consent to the will of the police. This is a temporary detainment. In NYS you can only be detained under reasonable suspicion you are commiting or will commit a crime, otherwise you are free to travel. Hence, by being detained at a checkpoint you are presumed reasonably suspicious without ever showing any indication of being suspicious! This does fall under the 4th amendment’s prohibition of unreasonable search and seizure as a detainment is considered a type of seizure. Your comment about stopping even one DUI is irrelevant as these checkpoints are NOT for DUIs but are for inspections, registrations, and seatbelts. A.K.A. revenue generation. I’ll ignore your ad hominem attack telling me to take a constitutional law class (which I have done).

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