Special Newsletter for
April 22, 2015
By Derek Gilna
The US Supreme Court has once again pushed back against overly intrusive government searches of defendants in a routine encounter with police where police have no grounds for such a search. The newly-announced decision in Rodriguez v U.S., 13-9972, reversed and remanded an Eighth Circuit ruling that the search of defendant’s car by a drug sniffing dog was within the scope of the traffic stop for a minor traffic violation, and that an eight-minute delay for the motorist was constitutionally acceptable.
Not so fast, the Supreme Court said, calling the search “unlawful.” The Supreme Court has previously struck down convictions based upon evidence gained as a result of a warrantless placement of a
device on a defendant’s motor vehicle.
Interestingly, Justice Scalia, generally known for his conservative
views, once again joined the majority of justices to further limit government’s
ability to arrest people without probable cause. The justices were not
persuaded by the government argument that the intrusion on defendant rights was
justified by the Government’s interest in stopping the flow of illegal drugs.
(This is the same faulty Government rationale used to justify TSA
searching Granny at airports in the name of stopping “terrorism.”)
It is hard to overestimate the value of this decision. Although obviously it is limited to the facts of this case, it sets clear limits on what is and isn’t acceptable in police stops. Of course, it would not be helpful in cases where the defendant is already under investigation by police or fleeing the scene of a crime.
Brick by brick the high court is starting to slowly build a wall of protection of citizen rights, to rein in the natural tendency of law enforcement to expand its power beyond what is necessary to perform its core function of protecting its citizens against violence and disaster. All we have to do is read the newspaper to see that the public is fed up with police misconduct in patrolling the streets, and ready to have a discussion as to what and what is not proper policing.
Is this ruling applicable to your case and your set of facts.
113 McHenry #173