The Campaign For DA


Law Stuff

Interesting case heard by the Supreme Court this morning. The Exclusionary Rule "says" that if the police violate the law, any evidence they find as a result of that violation cannot be used the defendant. For example, if the cops search my car without consent or probable cause, anything they find can't be used against me. (Note to DPS: I promise I've got nothing illegal in my car. I keep that stuff locked up elsewhere.)

Anyway, the case heard today had this strange twist: The law in the State of Virginia is that the police can only issue a summons (ticket) for misdemeanor offenses and cannot arrest the person committing the offense. In this case, the cop screwed up, arrested the defendant for a driver's license violation (a misdemeanor), and then searched him incident to the arrest. Oops. The defendant had decided to carry around some dope with him. Cops find it. He gets charged with dope possession.

The Government is arguing today that so long as a cop has probable cause to believe a crime was committed (and it is undisputed that probable cause existed on the driver's license violation), then the evidence should not be excluded. I'm not real sure I understand it, but lots of lower courts around the nation have bought into that argument.

It's amazing we've sunk this low.

But the above snippet from Justice Scalia was gold. Scalia, no friend of civil rights, asked the government's lawyer this hypothetical: If he (Scalia) had probable cause to believe his neighbor was growing marijuana and he went over to the house, searched it, found marijuana, and then arrested his neighbor (which he has no authority to do), then the government's lawyer believes that the marijuana found in the home could be used against the neighbor? Yep, the government's lawyer said.

Then the above occurred.