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Where Is that Fourth Amendment? I Know I Had it Around Here Somewhere.

copmistakes.jpgThe Supreme Court, now apparently firmly titled to the conservative side when it comes to Fourth Amendment matters, has struck another blow against our constitution protections. The Court today ruled that passengers pulled over for a routine traffic stop can be frisked, even if police do not suspect the passenger has or is about to commit a crime.

The Supreme Court ruled Monday that police officers have leeway to frisk a passenger in a car stopped for a traffic violation even if nothing indicates the passenger has committed a crime or is about to do so.

The court on Monday unanimously overruled an Arizona appeals court that threw out evidence found during such an encounter.
The case involved a 2002 pat-down search of an Eloy, Ariz., man by an Oro Valley police officer, who found a gun and marijuana.
The justices accepted Arizona’s argument that traffic stops are inherently dangerous for police and that pat-downs are permissible when an officer has a reasonable suspicion that the passenger may be armed and dangerous.

This comes on the heels of a ruling last week, in which the Supremes ruled that the exclusionary rule does not apply when the police accidentally violate your Fourth Amendment rights. What’s most surprising about this case, however, is that it was a unanimous ruling.

All I’m saying is: If you get pulled over for running a stop light, be prepared for a cavity search.

| Comments (7)


Is it true that if you're being pulled over in a secluded area at night you have the right to make the cop follow you to a populated area before pulling over? I live in NYC now, but when I go home to rural VT I often drive and am constantly freaked out by the prospect of getting pulled over by a fake cop at night in the middle of no-where. And I sure as shit wouldn't be willing to get out of the car for a frisking in that scenario, even if it was a real cop and not a serial killer in disguise (I come from a deeply paranoid family).


That's exactly what law enforcement advises you to do, but I have a friend who was charged with trying to evade an arrest by doing just that so I think it depends on just how your local law enforcement people view this.

Snarla: I did that a few years ago. I seriously did not feel safe pulling over. It was raining, the middle of the night, my wife was with me, I had no cell phone coverage in that area, I could not fathom any reason that I was being pulled over, and there had been reports in the area of people driving vehicles mocked up as police cars and then stealing your vehicle after they frisk you. The only problem is it was nearly 30 miles to the next town. After about a mile the cop started blooping his siren a dozen different ways, flashing his lights, and yelling over the loud speaker, "PULL OVER NOW, THIS IS THE POLICE!"

I slowed down, but still refused to pull over. He went nearly apocalyptic behind me, raced to get in front of me, and tried to slow me to a stop. I just kept puttering along, never varying my speed. I figured if he slowed down and I rear ended him that was his fault at that point. An hour later (would have only been 30 minutes if he hadn't put himself in front of me) just as we were nearing town a second cop pulled in behind me and ordered me to pull over. Since I was so close to town I went until the gas station and pulled over.

The police officers flipped their lid when I stopped. Screamed and yelled, ordered us out of the vehicle, hands behind back, on the ground, blah blah blah. Searched the vehicle, made me walk the line, and found absolutely nothing. I asked why he had tried to pull me over in the first place - he could not recall immediately and finally said that I had been driving "weird". I pointed out it was 3am, I had been driving for nearly ten hours, was literally ten miles from my destination, and there had been reports of mock police vehicles and stolen cars. I also said I had not felt safe and the police officer was behaving erratically in my opinion.

By that time a third police vehicle pulled up. Who turned out to be a friend I had gone to school with (I had grown up in the area). I started to talk to her, but she shushed me, asked the other officers for an explanation, and then turned to me. Her first question was, "Was the behavior of the officer that was following you erratic and the type of behavior you would identify as someone high on methamphetamine?"

The officer nearly went through the roof. By the time everything was sorted out she had cited the other officer for unprofessional conduct and I was told to say Hi to mom.

Then again, if I had not known the supervising officer? I would have been up the crick without a paddle.

Oh, and at the end she also informed me that the officers are required to give you a ticket for the original reason to pull you over plus attempting to elude (evade arrest). But, if you write a nice letter to court and show up if required, you will nearly always get out of it if you did not do anything weird yourself.

So, there you go. I have no idea what the reality behind that is, but that is my experience.


I heard (I have nothing official to cite for this), that if you are pulled over in a secluded area and want to go to a more populated place, or even if you are pulled over on a dangerous part of the freeway and you want to pull off the freeway to where it is safer, it is best to slow down and put on your hazards, so you are at least acknowledging the cop. I wonder if you can call 911, and have them contact the officer, to let him or her know why you aren't pulling over. But if you don't have cell signal (or if your state has anti-cell-phone-while-driving laws), that wouldn't be a possibility.

It was unanimous because it follows two clear lines of cases concerning frisks and passengers in cars. Say what you will, but the rational behind frisks has always been officer safety and Court has given great weight to the fact that an exceedingly high percentage of officer shootings come out of traffic stops.

I'm not necessarily saying I agree, but this result shouldn't come as a surprise.

I know we're talking about being pulled over while driving, but unwarranted search and seizure goes against the constitution. This is a bad ruling. Apply the same ruling to merely being a pedestrian and try it on for size.

three elle, esq:

My friend did call 911 after slowing down and turning on her blinkers in just such a situation. She didn't get a ticket for evading because the recording clearly showed she was simply concerned for her safety and she stopped the car when the 911 operator said it was okay.