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Military-Style Checkpoint Program Shut Down


The PCJF filed a successful lawsuit challenging the military-style checkpoint program set up in Trinidad, a predominantly Black neighborhood in Washington, D.C., where police surrounded the targeted neighborhood, interrogated people without suspicion, and prohibited entry to those persons who lacked a police-defined “legitimate reason” for driving into the neighborhood.

D.C. police interrogate a driver as part of the checkpoint program in Trinidad, D.C.

In an unanimous and strongly worded ruling, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit declared the District of Columbia’s checkpoint program unconstitutional on July 10, 2009, reversing a lower court ruling in favor of the municipality.

“We hope this puts an end to this chapter of police activity in the District of Columbia,” stated Mara Verheyden-Hilliard at the time of the ruling. “It’s time for the D.C. government to address the real needs of the communities of Washington, rather than criminalize neighborhoods. The program was not only unconstitutional but, like many of the MPD’s high-profile initiatives, ineffective in addressing crime and community problems.”

“The outcome of this case is extremely significant. If the government had succeeded in establishing military-style checkpoints in D.C., it would have been a model used in urban areas around the country,” stated Carl Messineo, attorney and co-founder of the PCJF.

The U.S. Court of Appeals held that the residents were entitled to a preliminary injunction that would prohibit further implementation of the checkpoints and reversed the lower court ruling denying that injunction. The District had recently sought a full court re-hearing of the case, which was rejected 8-1 by the Court of Appeals on Oct. 15, 2009. Subsequently it moved the court to stay the issuance of the mandate to the lower court which the PCJF opposed. Subsequently, the District filed a withdrawal of that request to the Court of Appeals and announced that it would rescind the order authorizing the program.

Mills v. District of Columbia, United States District Court for the District of Columbia | Case No. 1:08-cv-01061 (Class Action)
United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit | Case No. 08-7127

D.C. Checkpoint (Mills) – Complaint 2008

D.C. Checkpoint (Mills v. D.C.) – Memo in Support of Injunction 2008

D.C. Checkpoint (Mills v. D.C.) – Appellants Reply Brief 2009

D.C. Checkpoint (Mills v. D.C.) – Opinion 2009

D.C. Checkpoint (Mills v. D.C) – D.C. Withdraws Motion for Stay 2009


D.C. cancels checkpoint program following U.S. Court of Appeals ruling

En banc re-hearing in checkpoint case denied

Court Rules D.C. Checkpoints Are Unconstitutional

D.C. Circuit Appellate Brief Filed Opposing Unconstitutional Police Checkpoint Program

Appeal Filed to Strike Down Unconstitutional Checkpoint Program

PCJF Sues to Strike Down DC’s Checkpoint Program

Press Coverage

The Washington Post – Class Action Filed Over Checkpoints

The Associated Press – Group files lawsuit against DC vehicle checkpoints

The Washington Times – Lawyer Argues Against D.C. Checkpoints

The Washington Post- A Reality Check on D.C. Checkpoints

The Washington Post – Court Refuses to End Checkpoints, Appeal Filed

The Washington Post – Group Appeals Ruling on Police Checkpoints

The Associated Press – Appeals Court Considers DC vehicle Checkpoints

Legal Times – Report on U.S. Court of Appeals on D.C. Checkpoint Appeal

The Washington Post – Court Condemns D.C. Roadblocks

The Associated Press – Appeals court rejects DC police checkpoints

The Washington Examiner – Appeals court disallows D.C. police checkpoints

A federal appeals court ruled that checkpoints set up by District police in neighborhoods beset by violence are unconstitutional, effectively ending a crime-fighting tactic that officials say was used in only the direst circumstances to protect residents.

The Washington Post – D.C. to drop controversial checkpoints

Legal Times – D.C. to Settle Controversial Neighborhood Checkpoint Suit

The D.C. government has agreed not to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn an appellate court ruling that checkpoints set up by District police in neighborhoods beset by violence are unconstitutional.

The Washington Post – D.C. quietly folds up police checkpoint program

Remember all the controversy over military checkpoints in the District neighborhood of Trinidad? D.C. Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier set up roadblocks there in the summer of 2008 in an effort to combat crime in the Northeast neighborhood.