Supreme Court Says Ignorance Of The Law Is An Excuse — If You’re A Cop
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Thread: Supreme Court Says Ignorance Of The Law Is An Excuse — If You’re A Cop

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    XCR Guru Merlin's Avatar
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    Supreme Court Says Ignorance Of The Law Is An Excuse — If You’re A Cop

    Interesting comment/article on the ruling.

    Supreme Court Says Ignorance Of The Law Is An Excuse -- If You're A Cop | ThinkProgress

    There is one simple concept that law students learn in their very first weeks of criminal law class: Ignorance of the law is no excuse. This principle means that when an individual violates the law, it doesn’t matter whether or not they knew what the law said. If it’s a crime, and they are found to have committed the elements of that crime, they are guilty.


    On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the same standard doesn’t necessarily apply to police. In a splintered 8-1 ruling, the court found that cops who pulled over Nicholas Heien for a broken taillight were justified in a subsequent search of Heien’s car, even though North Carolina law says that having just one broken taillight is not a violation of the law.
    The ruling means that police did not violate Heien’s rights when they later searched his car and found cocaine, and that the cocaine evidence can’t be suppressed at a later trial. But it also means that the U.S. Supreme Court declined the opportunity to draw a line limiting the scope of police stops, at a time when they are as rampant and racially disproportionate as ever. Instead, police may have considerably more leeway to stop passengers on the road, even in a number of jurisdictions that had previously said cops are not justified in mistakes of law.
    The case hinged on a question of “reasonableness.” North Carolina’s law requires that a driver have one working rear taillight, not two. But the law also has some other language that suggests “other” lamps be in “working order.” If there was any ambiguity about this statute, the North Carolina Supreme Court has cleared it up, holding that the “other” lamps language does not refer to tail lights.
    Nonetheless, because the statute is confusing, the state argued that the cops had made a “reasonable” mistake when they pulled over Heien for having one tail light, and thus were not precluded from using the evidence that came out of that stop. This assertion is controversial in and of itself. After all, police already have such vast leeway to make traffic stops that Fourth Amendment scholar Orin Kerr recently quipped, “if an officer can’t find a traffic violation to stop a car, he isn’t trying very hard.” Now police have to try even less hard.
    If it were up to the two concurring justices, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elena Kagan, the ruling would have stopped here. It would have held that the stop of Heien was “reasonable” even though the officers made a mistake, because the law itself was particularly unclear.
    The vague language of the majority holding, however, seemingly went much further. Writing for the majority, Chief Justice John Roberts held that “investigatory stops” — when police stop someone on the street or in a car and may subsequently question, frisk, or search them — are simply not held to the same standard as criminal convictions.
    He dismissed the refrain “ignorance of the law is no excuse” as a maxim with “rhetorical appeal,” but not worthy of the court’s serious consideration, at least not when it comes to investigatory stops. “[J]ust because mistakes of law cannot justify either the imposition or the avoidance of criminal liability, it does not follow that they cannot justify an investigatory stop,” he writes.
    Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who is a former prosecutor, has significant concerns with the scope of this holding.
    “One wonders how a citizen seeking to be law-abiding and to structure his or her behavior to avoid these invasive, frightening, and humiliating encounters could do so,” she wrote. She also noted the “human consequences,” “including those for communities and for their relationships with the police” of broader leeway for police stops, seemingly making reference to current outrage over police brutality and community mistrust.
    She doesn’t think it makes any sense to apply a lesser standard to stops than to convictions. And she doesn’t like the vague, permissive standard that will likely result in “murky” application of the law.
    Perhaps most importantly, Sotomayor points out that the cost of prohibiting stops when officers actually make a mistake of the law would be very small, compared to a potentially great consequences of allowing them to do so. After all, when cops mistakenly pull someone over in a circumstance like that in this case, they suffer no consequence. The only result is that the evidence they collect cannot be used in a later prosecution. When cops mistakenly pull over citizens, a subsequent drug prosecution is one of just a number of adverse consequences that can follow.
    EricCartmann and BADDFROGG like this.

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    XCR Guru TexasChris's Avatar
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    The SC has been handing us down a jolly good F*ckin' here lately.
    Merlin, Sean K., Bravo and 2 others like this.
    Do what you've always done, get what you've always got. ----- Have gun. Will travel.

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    XCR Guru Sean K.'s Avatar
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    Proving, yet again, that there are two sets of laws in this country.
    "Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human liberty. It is the argument of tyrants; the creed of slaves."-William Pitt the Younger

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    Banned EricCartmann's Avatar
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    It has ALWAYS been this way in theory... I am just glad they finally put it in Print, to make it clear.
    Last edited by EricCartmann; 12-16-2014 at 11:29 AM.
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    Banned EricCartmann's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TexasChris View Post
    The SC has been handing us down a jolly good F*ckin' here lately.

    what is it about the recent rulings that makes it a joke???

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    XCR Guru Merlin's Avatar
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    Police officer took 4 pounds of marijuana home. He won't face charges.

    And it goes on and on and on and .............................

    Of course they did Not say what he did with ALL of it. For you and I it would have been; "Intent to distribute.".

    Police officer took 4 pounds of marijuana home. He won't face charges.
    Police officer took 4 pounds of marijuana home. He won't face charges. - The Week

    A police officer in Richmond, California, took too much of his work home.

    Officer Joe Avila picked up four to five pounds of marijuana from a UPS store as part of an investigation in November of last year, The Contra Costa Times reports. But instead of filing a report and taking the evidence to the police station, as required, Avila just took the drugs home.
    After an internal investigation questioned him about his missing reports — 37 in all — Avila admitted to keeping the marijuana. "Avila told investigators that he used two pounds of the marijuana to train his police dog in February 2014, and when pressed, he acknowledged there may be more in the trunk of his K-9 patrol car or at his house," The Times reports.

    Amazingly, officials at the Richmond Police Department said Avila probably won't be charged with any crime, citing evidence too weak to produce a conviction.
    - - Nico Lauricella
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    XCR Guru Sean K.'s Avatar
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    Ya....just an "oops".
    "Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human liberty. It is the argument of tyrants; the creed of slaves."-William Pitt the Younger

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    XCR Guru MickeyC's Avatar
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    ...er possession?
    Semper in excremento sum, solum profunditas mutat. 'Always in the shit, only the depth varies'

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    Marksman BADDFROGG's Avatar
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    The Supreme Court works for billion dollar corporations. Remember the Walmart ruling and that we cannot do a class action suit or a private law suit against cell,laptop,tablet manufacturers. If they should cause cancer etc.? And the FBI works as private security for billionaires in the U.S. and we pay for it. ie Such as August Busch the III the owner of Budweiser. And how is it that a multi billion dollar corporation can't pay decent wages and provide insurance coverage for its employees?
    Isn't the Walmart family one of the richest in the world. Yet Walmart cant provide decent wages and insurance coverage? And many Walmart employees receive food stamps and public healthcare. Which we the middle class and the poor pay for in our taxes. Where is the ethics?
    Last edited by BADDFROGG; 12-18-2014 at 08:16 AM.

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