OAG 94-026.

Case Date:April 20, 1994
Kentucky Attorney General Opinions 1994. OAG 94-026. April 20, 1994OAG 94-26This is an official copy of the following document. Norman Nezelkewicz Director of Transportation Kentuckiana Regional Planning and Development Agency11520 Commonwealth DriveLouisville, Kentucky 40299Dear Mr. Nezelkewicz : We have been asked to provide an opinion stating whether it is permissible for the Kentuckiana Regional Planning and Development Agency to conduct a highway use survey by stopping vehicles and asking the drivers to answer questions. We conclude that the planned survey is illegal. Our conclusion reaffirms the position taken by the Indiana Department of Transportation. That agency's legal staff concluded that the project in question violates rights protected by the U.S. Constitution, which is of course equally applicable to all states. A copy of the Indiana legal opinion is attached. The fundamental law at issue is the fourth amendment to the Constitution, which states, "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated . . . ." The stopping of a vehicle under color of government authority has always been considered a seizure. "There can be no question that the stopping of a vehicle and the detention of its occupants constitutes a 'seizure' within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment, even though the purpose of the stop is limited and the resulting detention quite brief." Delaware v. Prouse, 440 U.S. 648, 653, 59 L.Ed.2d 660, 99 S.Ct. 1391 (1979). Therefore the legal issue invariably is whether a particular seizure was unreasonable. The Prouse case holds that the general purpose of the fourth amendment is to impose a standard of reasonableness on the exercise of discretion by government officers. "Thus, the permissibility of a particular law enforcement practice is judged by balancing its intrusion on the individual's Fourth Amendment interests against its promotion of legitimate governmental interests." Id. at 655. The Court ruled that stopping a vehicle to check the driver's license and vehicle registration is illegal "except in those situations in which there is at least articulable and reasonable suspicion that a motorist is unlicensed or that an automobile is not registered." Id. at 663. The Court summarized its holding by...

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