Pedestrian Alcohol Tests Illegal

The U.S. District Court in Detroit had held that it is illegal for police to enforce a municipal ordinance requiring pedestrians under age 21 to take a breath test for alcohol use or face a $100 fine. The ordinance is nearly identical to a state law in Michigan.

“For years, police officers throughout Michigan have violated the rights of countless college students and others under age 21 by forcing them to submit to Breathalyzers” without cause, said the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

The suit asserted the law directly violated the U.S. Constitution by authorizing unwarranted searches of a person. The Court agreed, adding that “the right to be left alone in public places ranks high on the hierarchy of entitlements that citizens in a free society have come to expect at least in the context of citizen-police encounters.”

The civil liberties group sued on behalf of Jamie Spencer, 20, who was stopped by police in a part and ordered to blow into a breath-analyzing device. The test showed no alcohol in her system.

Ms. Spencer was pleased that other innocent citizens won’t be harassed and forced into such a demeaning situation.


  • Federal judge: City can’t force pedestrians booze tests. Associated Press, 11-25-03.