The Campaign For DA


Supreme Court This Morning: Cops Can Detain You Even If You Did Nothing Wrong

As of this morning, we now have a new rule made up on the fly.

If a cop makes a "reasonable" mistake about what the law is, he can stop you for violating what he believes the law to be even if he is dead wrong. Incredible. Simply incredible.

In the new case, the defendant had only one taillamp working. The cop mistakenly believed that North Carolina law required two taillamps. He was wrong.  It only required one.  Up until this morning, the rule was that if the cops stopped you for a traffic violation that wasn't actually a violation, any evidence they discovered after the stop couldn't be used against you.  Not only would the ticket be thrown out, but anything else they found could not be used against you.

Now, the ticket still gets thrown out, but if other evidence is discovered which is incriminating, the cops and prosecutors still get to use it. (Count down to some goofball who fires off the, "Well, don't have anything illegal in your car and you won't have to worry about it" line.)

But this will give rise to just a ton of more issues. For example, most cops in Texas believe that if you have a broken taillamp that you have committed a traffic violation.  That's not true. So long as there is SOME red light coming from the broken taillight, that's not a violation.  Can they stop you for that now and simply say, "I was mistaken about that law"? Doesn't that sound like a reasonable mistake? However, does it matter that a court interpreted that statute almost thirty years ago to say any red light emitting is sufficient? Do the cops still get a pass? Does it matter that the court case was taught a seminar they attended? Do I now have to find out what a particular cop was taught at a seminar? Isn't it to the cops' benefit that they don't teach/learn about that one court case thirty years ago? Or not to learn details about the law in general?