In 2009, Nicholas Heien of North Carolina was pulled over for having one broken brake light. Having one working brake light is legal in North Carolina. However, upon searching, the officer allegedly found cocaine and Heien was arrested and charged for attempted drug trafficking.
Attorneys argued that the law would have made Heien’s search and ensuing arrest invalid.
On Monday, in an 8-1 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that police officers can make traffic stops for the wrong reasons, as long as they have “reasonable” working knowledge of the law they are enforcing… This means that a mistaken idea of the law would not invalidate sequential searches and arrests on that basis.
Chief Justice John Roberts wrote:
To be reasonable is not to be perfect, and so the Fourth Amendment allows for some mistakes on the part of government officials, giving them ‘fair leeway for enforcing the law in the community’s protection.’
NBC News reports:
The lone dissenter, Justice Sonia Sotomayor, said an officer’s mistake about the law, no matter how reasonable, “cannot support the individualized suspicion necessary” to justify an arrest.
Obviously, one should never give permission for a car search without a warrant, as Heien apparently did. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court has covered that ground, too, when they ruled that K9 units were essentially search warrants on a leash (Florida v. Harris, 2013). And, these dogs are trained to “hit” just about every vehicle they encounter. If they weren’t trained to do so, one would have to ponder their stunning inaccuracy rate.
As a buttress for the ruling on Monday, in 2012 the Supreme Court let stand a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decision in Brooks v. City of Seattle, allowing police officers who don’t know their actions violate the law to be considered innocent.
Recently, I reported how a cop was alerting other cops of a little-known Supreme Court ruling in the late 1980s essentially doing away with the idea that there is such a thing as excessive force. That is, if other cops can consider the actions reasonable – there’s that word again. (Good grief)
In other words, now you know of 18 ways SCOTUS has sold Americans down the bloody river. If that’s not enough to show people they actually live behind occupied lines – nothing will.
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