Thursday, April 06, 2006

99 Problems In Your Legal Analysis

I got two choices y'all pull over the car or
Bounce on the devil put the pedal to the floor
Now I ain't tryin to see no highway chase with jake

Plus I got a few dollars I can fight the case
So I pull over to the side of the road
I heard "Son do you know what I'm stoppin' you for?"

"Cause I'm young and I'm black and my hat's real low
Do I look like a mind reader? Sir, I don't know.
Am I under arrest or should I guess some mo'?"

"Well you was doin' fifty five in a fifty four"

Following United States v. Whren (1996), the question of police intent in the stopping of a motor vehicle is wholly irrelevant. Writing for the majority, Justice Scalia states that "subjective intentions play no role in ordinary, probable cause analysis." Provided there is any substantive hook, the police are free to use any pretext - no matter how minor a traffic violation - to give legitimacy to their 'Driving-While-Black' practice. Stopping Young Hov' for exceeding the posted speed limit by 1 mile per hour is presumptively reasonable and a sufficient justification to conduct a 4th Amendment seizure.

"License and registration and step out of the car
Are you carryin' a weapon on you I know a lot of you are"

"I ain't steppin' out of shit all my papers legit

I'd step out of the Escalade Roc-A-Fella, if I were you. This is an incremental inconvenience given the nature of the stop already conducted. Even if the police choose not to arrest you for a violation of traffic code - which may itself be an option depending on the jurisdiction and context of the offense - Terry v. Ohio (1968) and subsequent progeny give the police authority to detain you briefly for reasonable suspicions and to take any related prophylactic measure. Even though Terry was a case about someone who may be likely to commit a crime, a person can be asked to step out of the car for the less preventive reason of Officer safety. Under this 'concern for safety' umbrella, the police have wide latitude to obtain compliance for a number of non-intrusive measures. It is always permissible to frisk someone when they are legitimately stopped - this is the spirit of Harlan's concurrence.

"Do you mind if I look 'round the car a little bit?"
Well my glove compartment is locked so is the trunk and the back

Jay Z is right to a certain extent. The police officer authority to search the car is quite narrow in scope given the available fact pattern. But, along the same lines of the earlier reasoning, law enforcement can legitimately search the areas of the car that pose lingering danger. Though the purpose of the stop was to cite the rap artist or investigate some suspicion, the Officer has the discretion to do what he wants to feel safe. If that means that the cop wants to search around the driver's seat and any area within arm's reach, that decision will likely be upheld. United States v. Sharpe (1985). Searching the backseat is a bit fuzzy, though, and the trunk would probably still be off limits. Unless, of course, something in the brief exchange between 5-0 and Music Mogul provided the necessary probable cause to justify the search.

And I know my rights so you gon' need a warrant for that

Wrong. There is no Constitutional requirement for searches to be supported by warrants. The 4th Amendment only stipulates that searches be reasonable - and the touchstone of reasonability is whether there is probable cause or reasonable suspicion. The warrant clause of the Amendment only requires that they issue "but upon probable cause." This is a protection against the vague and offensively broad attainders issued during the Colonial period by the British.

"Aren't you sharp as a tack? are some type of lawyer or something?"
"Or somebody important or somethin?"
"Nah, I ain't pass the bar but I know a little bit
Enough that you won't illegally search my shit
"Well see how smart you are when the K-9's come"

Sniffing dogs do not present a problem for the 4th Amendment following Illinois v. Caballes (2005). Stevens opines that suspicionless dogsniffing is not even considered a search for Constitutional purposes - the practice does not reveal any information but that which the individual has no lawful right to possess. There is no legitimate expectation of privacy in Jay-Z's "raw" in the trunk.


At 4:48 PM, Blogger The Namby Pamby said...

I feel as if I no longer need to go to crim procedure for the rest of the semester now...

At 7:53 PM, Blogger SLS2L(@YLS) said...

Thanks. I'm turning this into a note for the Law Review. So, maybe you'll see it there as well.

At 9:52 PM, Anonymous Anne said...

Now I feel like I'm caught up on all the reading I don't do.


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