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01 January 2015

SCOTUS Says Cops Don't Have to Know the Law

Heien v. North Carolina. Remember the name of this case. The Supreme Court has ruled that a police officer may violate your Fourth Amendment rights if he made a “reasonable mistake about the law.” You read that right. The Supreme Court has gone too far now! WE are required to know the law, i.e., the old adage, "ignorance of the law is no excuse." 

In this case a fellow was pulled over for a violation that was NOT a violation of the law. The cop was mistaken and the driver was not in violation of the law which was the basis for the stop in the first place. Under the law (as it used to be) if the stop was illegal, then all evidence seized as a result of that illegal stop was not admissible in court. Fruit of the poisonous tree. As it is now, the stop can be illegal and any evidence seized used against you even if the cop thought he was stopping you for a legitimate violation, but he in fact was wrong about the  law. In this case, the driver had only one brake light. The cop thought he was required to have both brake lights operating, so the cop stopped him and then searched the car. Turns out the cop was mistaken about the law, and only one brake light was required, therefore the cop had no legitimate basis to stop the driver in the first place, hence the search was illegal. The Supreme Court said, it doesn't matter if the stop was illegal and the evidence thus illegally seized IF the cop made a reasonable mistake about the law.

This begs the question: How many times can the same cop or police force be "mistaken" about the same law before it becomes obvious they actually know the law and are just using ignorance of the law as a pretext to stop and harass people?

Why are police officers not held to an even higher standard than those of us they are policing? How can they enforce the law without violating our rights if they don't know the law? Oh, right. Never mind. They have been violating our civil and human rights for decades now with little or no repercussions. The United States of America is slip sliding away into Fascism.

You can read the Supreme Court's opinion here:  


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