A Federal Lawsuit Challenges Blatantly Unconstitutional Anti-Crime Checkpoints in Jackson, Mississippi
Archie Skiffer Jr., who lives in Mendenhall, Mississippi, delivers food for DoorDash in nearby Jackson, the state capital, on weekday evenings. That side gig has been complicated recently by the anti-crime checkpoints that the Jackson Police Department (JPD) is using to catch “individuals with outstanding warrants” and other lawbreakers. Skiffer’s experience with the JPD’s “Ticket, Arrest, Tow” (TAT) program, which he and several other plaintiffs are challenging in a federal lawsuit filed yesterday, illustrates the impact of these blatantly unconstitutional roadblocks, which stop drivers without any evidence that they have committed traffic violations or otherwise broken the law.
“In his capacity as a food delivery driver, Mr. Skiffer does not feel he can afford to regularly encounter JPD’s TAT roadblocks,” says the complaint, which was filed by the Mississippi Center for Justice (MCJ). “When he learned of the practice through the press, he prepared to drive alternate routes or out of his way to avoid them. He has been using an app to monitor roadblock placement since TAT launched, and while driving in majority-Black and low income neighborhoods in Jackson, he has intentionally altered his route to avoid encountering multiple reported JPD checkpoints. He has seen the checkpoints as they were being set up. He has made food deliveries to people in these neighborhoods who have told him they would be driving themselves to get food for their families, but they do not want to sit at roadblocks.”
The MCJ is seeking an injunction on behalf of Skiffer and other drivers who have likewise had to either put up with the indignity and delay caused by Jackson’s suspicionless stops or go out of their way to avoid them. During the stops, police demand that drivers produce their licenses and proof of insurance. They ticket drivers who lack those documents and tow their cars. If police discover that people have outstanding warrants or are illegally carrying firearms, they make arrests. The lawsuit, which the MCJ wants the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi to certify as a class action, argues that the checkpoints violate the Fourth Amendment’s ban on unreasonable searches and seizures.
“We cannot sanction stops justified only by the generalized and ever-present possibility that interrogation and inspection may reveal that any given motorist has committed some crime,” the Supreme Court said in the 2000 case Indianapolis v. Edmond. Or as a driver who last week refused to produce his license and proof of insurance at a JPD checkpoint put it, “You can’t treat everyone like a criminal to find the criminals.” Yet city officials have made it clear that is exactly what is happening in Jac
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