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US Supreme Court To Rule On Cops Who Get Law Wrong (traffic stops)
the Newspaper ^ | 08/04/2014 | n/a

Posted on 08/04/2014 11:32:56 AM PDT by Ken H

Oral arguments set for US Supreme Court to decide whether a traffic stop is invalid when the police officer is wrong about the law.

Is a police officer's traffic stop valid if he is wrong about the law? The US Supreme Court announced it would take up that question when it returns in October to hear the case of Nicholas Brady Heien.

On April 29, 2009, Surry County Sheriff's Sergeant Matt Darisse was on Interstate 77 when he saw a Ford Escort hit the brakes, and the right-side light did not illuminate. Sergeant Darisse decided to pull over the Ford, which was driven by Maynor Javier Vasquez with Heien asleep in the back seat. After the driver's license came back clean, Sergeant Darisse handed him a warning.

While questioning Vasquez, however, the sergeant became suspicious. Vasquez said he was on his way to West Virginia, but Heien said they were headed to Kentucky. Both Vasquez and Heien consented to a search of the vehicle which turned up cocaine.

The sergeant was wrong to pull over the Ford, as it is legal to drive in North Carolina as long as one brake light is functional. Liberal and conservative groups have joined to urge the US Supreme Court to reject the December 2012 decision of North Carolina's high court, which held that since it had never ruled on the stop light issue and the officer's interpretation was "reasonable," the stop should be considered valid.

The Cato Institute, National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and American Civil Liberties Union teamed up to file a friend of the court brief arguing police ought to have the same duty as citizens to know and obey the law. The groups urged the US Supreme Court to uphold the principle that a traffic stop is always invalid when the cop is wrong about the law.

"The North Carolina Supreme Court's rule threatens to undermine law enforcement," the groups wrote. "It understates the importance of legal training for law enforcement officials, as well as diminishing the public perception of law enforcement officials' knowledge and authority."

North Carolina prosecutors argued the single stop light law was "antiquated" and that the Fourth Amendment does not require police officers to be perfect. As long as the suspicion is reasonable, they argued, that was good enough.

"No one disagrees that the officer stopped petitioner's vehicle based upon a reasonable belief of a violation," North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper argued last month. "That reasonable belief was dispelled only by a 'surprising' appellate court ruling that for the first time construed a traffic law on the books for more than fifty years to require only one functioning brake light. The Supreme Court of North Carolina correctly ruled that reasonable mistakes of law, like this one, can support reasonable suspicion."

Oral arguments before the US Supreme Court have been set for October 6.


TOPICS: Constitution/Conservatism; Government; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: lawenforcement; scotus; trafficstops
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1 posted on 08/04/2014 11:32:56 AM PDT by Ken H
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To: null and void

Ping!


2 posted on 08/04/2014 11:35:37 AM PDT by Slings and Arrows ("Your Daddy Was Drunk and Your Mama Was Lonely" - http://youtu.be/4HYy62qiOwA)
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To: BuckeyeTexan

SCOTUS ping.


3 posted on 08/04/2014 11:36:52 AM PDT by Lurking Libertarian (Non sub homine, sed sub Deo et lege)
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To: Ken H

If ignorance of the law is not an excuse for a civilian, then, a law officer should be expected to have just a much knowledge of the law as the civilian. In fact, the law officer is expected to have a lot more knowledge of the laws which he/she is enforcing.


4 posted on 08/04/2014 11:39:02 AM PDT by adorno (Y)
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To: Ken H

This ridiculous Court? Of course they will have no problem with this.


5 posted on 08/04/2014 11:40:32 AM PDT by RIghtwardHo
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To: adorno

Sadly, they will never buy your reasonable argument.


6 posted on 08/04/2014 11:41:18 AM PDT by RIghtwardHo
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To: Ken H
police ought to have the same duty as citizens to know and obey the law.

Otherwise the cop could make up an imaginary law to justify the stop as an excuse to search a vehicle.

7 posted on 08/04/2014 11:41:32 AM PDT by Blood of Tyrants (The cure has become worse than the disease. Support an end to the WOD now.)
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To: Ken H

If it is legal for the lawmen to break the law then it is legal for their bosses the citizens to break the law.


8 posted on 08/04/2014 11:42:40 AM PDT by mountainlion (Live well for those that did not make it back.)
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To: Blood of Tyrants

Cops already routinely stop vehicles whenever they want to, for spurious or made-up reasons. Usually it doesn’t end up becoming an issue in a trial.


9 posted on 08/04/2014 11:44:01 AM PDT by Oberon (John 12:5-6)
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To: RIghtwardHo
Nothing to see here. Move along.


10 posted on 08/04/2014 11:44:06 AM PDT by Uncle Miltie (The GOP-e scum enlisted Democrats to steal the Republican primary. The GOP-e can go to Hell.)
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To: RIghtwardHo

They sincerely have an assumption of elitism - gov’t and agents thereof are a separate and special class.


11 posted on 08/04/2014 11:45:24 AM PDT by MrB (The difference between a Humanist and a Satanist - the latter admits whom he's working for)
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To: Ken H

Police are only trained to shoot dogs ,special Muslim training Sir


12 posted on 08/04/2014 11:45:40 AM PDT by molson209 (Blank)
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To: Ken H

I was under the impression the cops could stop you for nothing at all (ie. checkpoints)

So I don’t see why it would be an issue if they stopped you for something they mistakenly thought was against the law, since they could stop you for nothing if they wanted.


13 posted on 08/04/2014 11:46:02 AM PDT by TexasFreeper2009 (Obama lied .. the economy died.)
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To: Blood of Tyrants
Otherwise the cop could make up an imaginary law to justify the stop as an excuse to search a vehicle.

I'm half convinced they'd do this anyway.

14 posted on 08/04/2014 11:47:27 AM PDT by OneWingedShark (Q: Why am I here? A: To do Justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with my God.)
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To: Ken H

Had a cop try to give me a ticket for turning left on red. No one told him in Ga you turn left on red after yielding if you completely stop AND it’s a one way turning on a one way. After radioing in he let me go.


15 posted on 08/04/2014 11:48:46 AM PDT by autumnraine
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To: yorkiemom; null and void; laplata; Gluteus Maximus; Salvavida; Foundahardheadedwoman; baddog 219; ..

CWII Spark — When those tasked with “enforcing” the law have no requirement to KNOW the law, everything they do is susceptible to questioning as ‘arbitrary’.


16 posted on 08/04/2014 11:49:56 AM PDT by OneWingedShark (Q: Why am I here? A: To do Justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with my God.)
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To: Ken H

I am of the opinion that this comes down to a detention, or a custodial or non-custodial stop. In a non-custodial stop, the citizen is not required to identify, or even engage with the officer in any way. This is no different than being approached by someone on the street.

The next level of stop is detention. I believe that the Terry vs Ohio ruling establishes “reasonable suspicion” as the criteria or the stop and question.

The highest level is a custodial stop. This should require probable cause.

As I see this particular situation, the officer had “reasonable suspicion” that a broken tail light was a traffic violation.


17 posted on 08/04/2014 11:51:31 AM PDT by taxcontrol
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To: TexasFreeper2009
I was under the impression the cops could stop you for nothing at all (ie. checkpoints)

Well, they do. But "officially" it should only be when they think you're about to commit a crime, are committing a crime, or have committed a crime.

Things like checkpoints are considered to be an exception to that rule. Courts have signed off on the practice, so long as certain criteria are met.

18 posted on 08/04/2014 11:52:58 AM PDT by gdani (Every day, your Govt surveils you more than the day before)
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To: Ken H

1) I have a hard time believing the sheriff didn’t know that it was legal to drive with one functioning taillight. I could understand confusion over a more obscure traffic law, but you’d think every LEO in NC would know the taillight regulations.

2) Even if we assume the sheriff was sincerely mistaken, I think the court should throw out the search, as if they deem this stop acceptable, some cops (not all or even most but some) around the country will start “forgetting” traffic laws, in order to make random stops without reasonable suspicion, much less probable cause.

I wouldn’t be shocked it the court punts this one, by saying that since the suspects consented to the search, the point about whether the stop was legal or not is moot.


19 posted on 08/04/2014 11:55:00 AM PDT by Above My Pay Grade (The people have the right to tell government what guns it may possess, not the other way around.)
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To: Ken H

So is this the “Well there oughta be a law...” defense?


20 posted on 08/04/2014 11:57:59 AM PDT by chrisser (Senseless legislation does nothing to solve senseless violence.)
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To: Ken H

road stops bother me....unless they’re looking for a criminal


21 posted on 08/04/2014 11:59:43 AM PDT by Sacajaweau
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To: taxcontrol

So on other words, cops can simply make up laws.

Sounds great.

APf


22 posted on 08/04/2014 11:59:56 AM PDT by APFel (Regnum Nostrum Crescit)
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Imagine A World Without FR.......


Click The Pic To Donate

Support It Or Lose It

23 posted on 08/04/2014 12:00:59 PM PDT by DJ MacWoW (The Fed Gov is not one ring to rule them all)
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To: Lurking Libertarian; Perdogg; JDW11235; Clairity; Spacetrucker; Art in Idaho; GregNH; Salvation; ...

FReepmail me to subscribe to or unsubscribe from the SCOTUS ping list.

24 posted on 08/04/2014 12:08:28 PM PDT by BuckeyeTexan (There are those that break and bend. I'm the other kind. ~Steve Earle)
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To: Ken H

A major principal of our Common Law based legal system is, that if something is not expressly illegal, it is by default legal.

This being said, in this case there was no justified reasonable suspicion to permit the stop, determined after the fact, so without that, there could be no determination of probable cause, and no arrest. Thus anything found after the initial error should be inadmissible.


25 posted on 08/04/2014 12:09:03 PM PDT by yefragetuwrabrumuy ("Don't compare me to the almighty, compare me to the alternative." -Obama, 09-24-11)
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To: bamahead

Ping


26 posted on 08/04/2014 12:09:24 PM PDT by BuckeyeTexan (There are those that break and bend. I'm the other kind. ~Steve Earle)
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To: Uncle Miltie

Look at that! Peace officers wrapped up like muzzies, on their way to shoot a Irish Setter?


27 posted on 08/04/2014 12:10:08 PM PDT by reefdiver (Be the Best you can be Whatever you Dream to be)
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To: RIghtwardHo

The fact that they took on this case is a strong indication thay will reverse the lower court.


28 posted on 08/04/2014 12:14:43 PM PDT by SeaHawkFan
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To: adorno

That reasonable belief was dispelled only by a ‘surprising’ appellate court ruling that for the first time construed a traffic law on the books for more than fifty years to require only one functioning brake light.

Apparently, there was a new interpretation of the law based on this case. There’s no way the officer could have known.


29 posted on 08/04/2014 12:15:09 PM PDT by Moonman62 (The US has become a government with a country, rather than a country with a government.)
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To: Oberon

Yep, they will follow a person for miles sometimes just looking for an excuse to pull someone over. Before the advent of dashcams, the officer would often just lie about the reason for the stop such as, “You crossed the yellow line” or “You didn’t use your blinker to change lanes” or some such crap. And of course, they do this because they can justify seizing the driver’s car and any money they find if they even SUSPECT the property was obtained with the sale of drugs.


30 posted on 08/04/2014 12:16:32 PM PDT by Blood of Tyrants (The cure has become worse than the disease. Support an end to the WOD now.)
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To: Blood of Tyrants
The people who were arrested were unarguably guilty of possession of cocaine. The issue is not their guilt but the manner of their apprehension.

Many posters on this thread believe that the guilty people should be acquitted because "police ought to have the same duty as citizens to know and obey the law." A better argument, offered by Blood of Tyrants follows immediately:

Otherwise the cop could make up an imaginary law to justify the stop as an excuse to search a vehicle.

In other words there is a higher value at stake here than merely punishing the guilty, assuring that our rights of privacy are protected against overreaching police. That means that the right of privacy is so important that we are willing to have guilty people go free to prevent its abuse.

Note, that in turn assumes that there is a relationship between denying police the right to use the fruits of an improper search and maintaining our constitutional right of privacy. Is there no other way to protect our privacy and still convict the guilty? Is this a good case in which to quash the evidence and acquit guilty people? Is this a case of overzealous police? Hardly.

Our general rights of privacy are not at stake from cops making an honest mistake in conducting a search based on an honest misconception of the law. Therefore, unless an argument can be made that to permit such searches under honest mistake of law circumstances is to open the floodgates to improper searches, the evidence should be admitted.

So these facts we have two hurdles to overcome if we want to exclude the evidence: First, we must agree that withholding the evidence discourages police from making improper searches. The Supreme Court has already made this decision in the affirmative. Second, cops will likely make up laws in order to justify improper searches.

Merely to argue that the police should be held to the standard of knowing the law because the public is held to that standard is not persuasive. A practical level, police have to act under extreme pressure in a moments notice without the ability to go to law library and research difficult search and seizure questions or questions of law in general. The test should be whether the policeman makes the judgment of breaking of the law in good faith. This is a factual question which could be handled either by a jury or by a judge in a search and seizure hearing. The law makes those judgments all the time. It asks was this reasonable under the circumstances? There is no rational relationship between protecting privacy and the idea that cops should be held to the same standard as citizens. That might be a satisfying emotional argument but it does not on its face relate to our constitutional right to be free of unreasonable searches and seizures.

To rule that under all circumstances and in all cases in which a policeman misconceived the law renders evidence inadmissible against an admittedly guilty party is a remedy that is unnecessarily broad to achieve its proper constitutional purpose of protecting the public from invasive and unreasonable searches and seizures. It is unnecessary because the courts have proven ability to litigate these issues and determine reasonableness. To propound an arbitrary rule is likely to cause more societal harm as guilty people are released back into society to commit more crime.

This is not the case of SWAT teams gone wild or of rogue policeman extorting innocent civilians, this is a run-of-the-mill case which can be easily handled on its own merits by the court system.


31 posted on 08/04/2014 12:17:10 PM PDT by nathanbedford ("Attack, repeat, attack!" Bull Halsey)
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To: Ken H

AHad a cop follow me off of an interstate and onto the off-ramp. The off-ramp was uphill, and there was a stop sign at the top. I was driving a standard shift vehiucle, so I rolled up to the stop sign, and began to roll backward almost immediately. I pulled out and the cop stopped me for a stop sign violation, even though I tried to explain to him that for me to roll backwards at some point I had to be going exactly zero miles per hour. He didn’t get it, and wrote the ticket. I went to court and the judge actually admonished the prosecution for not throwing the ticket out. He wondered, aloud, what kind of education the police and prosecution had received to not understand a basic law of physics.


32 posted on 08/04/2014 12:26:35 PM PDT by krogers58
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To: nathanbedford

You assume the cop didn’t know the law. Surely this isn’t the first time that the cop had ever ticketed someone for a broken taillight.

I submit that the cop had an ulterior motive for stopping the vehicle: because he knew that if he found drugs or SUSPECTED that drugs were involved, he could seize the car and any cash he found and keep them to fund the department’s JBT/SWAT squads.


33 posted on 08/04/2014 12:37:43 PM PDT by Blood of Tyrants (The cure has become worse than the disease. Support an end to the WOD now.)
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To: Blood of Tyrants
I don't assume any such thing, although there is a reply in this thread which says that the cop probably did not know because there was a recent appellate court ruling to the effect. I merely say that this is a matter which can be litigated in the normal course without the Supreme Court of the United States handing down a verbot declaring all such evidence to be arbitrarily excluded.

If the finders of fact conclude that the mistake was honest, the evidence should be admitted.

If the finder of fact concludes that the mistake was contrived and dishonest, the evidence should be excluded. It should be determined on a case-by-case basis. If we make an arbitrary law we are fashioning yet one more remedy for all cases that lets a guilty party go in every case. That remedy is not necessary.


34 posted on 08/04/2014 12:45:28 PM PDT by nathanbedford ("Attack, repeat, attack!" Bull Halsey)
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To: taxcontrol
As I see this particular situation, the officer had “reasonable suspicion” that a broken tail light was a traffic violation.

I must disagree. "Reasonable suspicion" comes into play when there is some uncertainty. All of the facts are not in.

But there is no uncertainty here. The facts are all in. A single broken tail light is not an infraction. It is up to the cop - and the driver as well - to know the facts.

35 posted on 08/04/2014 1:03:25 PM PDT by Leaning Right (Why am I holding this lantern? I am looking for the next Reagan.)
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To: Ken H

What was the support for the cop’s presumption that the vehicle code applied to that car, or the driver of that car, at the time of the stop?


36 posted on 08/04/2014 1:15:57 PM PDT by Talisker (One who commands, must obey.)
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To: TexasFreeper2009

checkpoints and traffic stop are two different critters. You might want to bone up on that.


37 posted on 08/04/2014 1:23:16 PM PDT by mad_as_he$$
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To: Blood of Tyrants
Otherwise the cop could make up an imaginary law to justify the stop as an excuse to search a vehicle.

Remember the Border Patrolman who said the Boy Scout couldn't take a picture of him, put a gun on him, and searched the Boy Scouts' van for four hours? If he gets to interpret the law, he's off scot free... whether he finds anything or not.

38 posted on 08/04/2014 1:35:22 PM PDT by Pearls Before Swine
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To: Pearls Before Swine

Cops do not get to interpret the law, cases have been thrown out many times because cops acted stupidly. The law doesn’t change depending on the mind of a cop.


39 posted on 08/04/2014 1:40:06 PM PDT by GeronL (Vote for Conservatives not for Republicans)
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To: GeronL
Cops do not get to interpret the law...

I couldn't agree more that it's the way it should be. However, without the help of a good lawyer, the cops can cause problems by overstepping their bounds. Decisions like this hopefully knock that back a bit.

40 posted on 08/04/2014 1:44:48 PM PDT by Pearls Before Swine
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To: Ken H; adorno
These stupid cocaine transporters were apparently determined to break into jail, by not simply accepting the warning and declining to answer further prying interrogation, by lying to the Sheriff's Deputy, by acting suspiciously, and by vigorously refusing to voluntarily permit an uninvited search of their vehicle without a warrant. They surrendered their basic rights, and exposed their nefarious criminal activity to a legitimate code-enforcer, who thereafter had no other options except to detain them.

And they expected to be released from their possession of incriminating dope because of a broken tail light??!! After the fact of practically telling the arresting officer of their guilt? B. S. !! Red meat here for the ACLU ambulance-chasers and other law-scorners.

Does the law enforcement officer have to know, to the most minute scrutiny, every letter of the Federal law, State Code, county statutes, village regulations, etc before hindering a citizen's progress for further interrogation? Of course not.

Where is the line drawn? One would expect that a highway patrol officer would be well-informed as to the condition standards to be met for vehicle operation on the public highways under his purview. And that is probably true. It appears that the officer was detaining the vehicle for failure in an area which would have legally and logically caused it to fail the Vehicle Inspection requirements:

The question is whether or not the officer correctly judged the vehicle able to pass the minimum vehicle safety specifications according to state code. Was it equipped with safety equipment operating so as to pass the yearly Vehicle Inspection?

The answer seems to be "No."

Here is the North Carolina standards, which the officer must have been well-acquainted, in this respect:

**********

https://connect.ncdot.gov/business/dmv/dmv%20documents/safety%20and%20emissions%20inspection%20regulations%20manual.pdf

North Carolina Administrative Code 19A 03D Section .0500

19A NCAC 03D .0533 LIGHTS

. . .

(b) Rear Lights shall conform to the requirements of G.S. 20-129(d). Taillights shall not be approved if:

(1) All original equipped rear lamps or the equivalent are not in working order.
(2) The lens is cracked, discolored, or of a color other than red.
(3) They do not operate properly and project white light on the license plate.
(4) They are not securely mounted.

(c) Stoplights shall conform to the requirements of G.S. 20-129(g). A stoplight shall not be approved if:

(1) The lens is cracked, discolored or of a color other than red or amber. Minor cracks on lenses shall not lead
to disapproval unless water is likely to short out the bulb.
(2) It does not come on when pressure is applied to foot brake.
(3) It is not securely mounted so as to project a light to the rear.

. . .

(etc.)

*********

All these fools had to do was to thank the officer for bringing the taillight failure to their attention, and respectfully decline any further delays with their journey, clam up, and leave.

Jerks.

41 posted on 08/04/2014 1:53:32 PM PDT by imardmd1 (Fiat Lux)
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To: mad_as_he$$

as far as I am aware, a police man can walk up to anyone they wish and talk to them, ask them for ID ect.


42 posted on 08/04/2014 2:00:44 PM PDT by TexasFreeper2009 (Obama lied .. the economy died.)
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To: Ken H; adorno; imardmd1
Coorection:<> ". . . and by not vigorously refusing to voluntarily permit an uninvited search of their vehicle . . . "

Sorry --

43 posted on 08/04/2014 2:02:37 PM PDT by imardmd1 (Fiat Lux)
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To: TexasFreeper2009

So can I. They can politely just say, “No. “ And continue on their way without further harrassment.


44 posted on 08/04/2014 2:05:38 PM PDT by imardmd1 (Fiat Lux)
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To: Ken H

I’m going to really enjoy reading the oral arguments on this.


45 posted on 08/04/2014 2:10:09 PM PDT by zeugma (Islam: The Antidote for civilization)
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To: reefdiver

They are LEO’s not Peace officers.


46 posted on 08/04/2014 2:48:20 PM PDT by B4Ranch (Name your illness, do a Google & YouTube search with "hydrogen peroxide". Do it and be surprised.)
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To: B4Ranch

What is a LEO?


47 posted on 08/04/2014 5:27:59 PM PDT by reefdiver (Be the Best you can be Whatever you Dream to be)
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To: BuckeyeTexan

Why is SCOUTS hearing a case about how one specific state runs its police powers? What is the stretched constitutional basis for them hearing this?

The police powers of a given state should be manged by the people of that state by through the ballot by representation and referendum.


48 posted on 08/04/2014 5:43:58 PM PDT by PapaNew (The grace of God & freedom always win the debate over unjust law & government in the forum of ideas)
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To: Ken H

As far as I am concerned, if the officer stops me because he does not know the law, I ought to be able to collect any amount I deem appropriate from him.

I don’t get the option of deciding what I feel is an appropriate fine when I am wrong so why should he?


49 posted on 08/04/2014 5:59:40 PM PDT by Clay Moore ("911 is for when the backhoe won't start." JRandomFreeper)
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To: reefdiver

Law Enforcement Officer


50 posted on 08/04/2014 6:02:58 PM PDT by B4Ranch (Name your illness, do a Google & YouTube search with "hydrogen peroxide". Do it and be surprised.)
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