"The phrase 'I'm from the government and I'm here to help' will become even more terrifying."
June 9, 2007 10:53 AM   Subscribe

On December 18, 2004, Ascension Alverez-Tejeda and his girlfriend were stopped at a traffic light near La Pine Oregon, and when the light turned green, the car in front of them stalled. Alverez-Tejeda stopped in time but a pickup truck behind him rear-ended him. When he got out to look at his bumper, the police showed up and arrested the truck driver for drinking and driving. The cops then convinced Alverez-Tejeda and his girlfriend to go to a nearby parking lot, ordered them out of their car and into in the back of the cop car for 'processing.' While they were in the cruiser, a person jumped in their car and took off. The cops ordered the pair out and set off in full pursuit up the road.

But it was all a set up worthy of David Mamet. DEA agents were tracking a drug gang and. . .decided to stage something, perhaps even a carjacking, in order to seize the drugs without tipping off the conspirators. They never consulted a judge, but every person in the story, other than Alverez-Tejeda and his girlfriend, was a cop of some sort.
posted by EarBucket (71 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
couldn't that be summarized a bit?
posted by andywolf at 10:57 AM on June 9, 2007


Kozinksi is usually so brilliant; this is disappointing.
posted by Kwantsar at 11:05 AM on June 9, 2007


That is SO awesome. Go DEA!!
posted by jonson at 11:11 AM on June 9, 2007


That is SO awesome. Go DEA!!
posted by jonson at 11:11 AM on June 9


That is awesome! Now the police have a court-approved tool to seize any citizen's property without a warrant!! I love it!!! You're an idiot!!!! Hooray!!!!!
posted by Optimus Chyme at 11:18 AM on June 9, 2007


I think you forgot to turn on your irony detector, Optimus.
posted by psmealey at 11:20 AM on June 9, 2007


If you are innocent, you have nothing to fear
posted by Postroad at 11:22 AM on June 9, 2007


If you are innocent, you have nothing to fear

except for cops who break the law. That shit be peas and carrots.
posted by 23skidoo at 11:30 AM on June 9, 2007


If at first you cannot search, redefine 'unreasonable'.
posted by Malor at 11:33 AM on June 9, 2007 [4 favorites]


Right, unreasonable is bad, insane Hollywood style is good. It's totally reasonable if it's entertaining enough.
posted by IronLizard at 11:41 AM on June 9, 2007


Holy shit, this is horrifying.

The cops seem like the largest and strangest gang in the country and seem to be able to act with immunity. We need an anti-gang task force.
posted by Matt Oneiros at 11:42 AM on June 9, 2007


The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the lower court's decision Friday, finding that this police escapade was legal since the cops had probable cause already to seize and search the car, thanks to the vehicle exception to the Fourth Amendment created by the courts during the War on Drugs.

Vehicle exception to the Fourth Amendment? What's that?

That is awesome! Now the police have a court-approved tool to seize any citizen's property without a warrant!! I love it!!! You're an idiot!!!! Hooray!!!!!

The "you're an idiot" bit is sarcasm, right, to go along with the initially sarcastic comment you were replying to, right?
posted by delmoi at 11:42 AM on June 9, 2007


Motor Vehicle Exception. You don't need a warrant to search a car if you have probably cause.
posted by smackfu at 11:47 AM on June 9, 2007


Huh.
posted by YoBananaBoy at 11:49 AM on June 9, 2007


What smackfu said.
posted by YoBananaBoy at 11:49 AM on June 9, 2007


Why go through all this trouble to stage this when they coulda just got a warrant? Was there some other variable in this story I'm not getting that made the warrant harder to get than staging an episode of Punk'd? Either something's fishy, or the cops are painfully bored of picking up drug traffickers, and needed something to spice up their lovelife with The War On Drugs. ...I suddenly have an appetite for calimari...
posted by ZachsMind at 11:52 AM on June 9, 2007


...would getting a warrant alert the conspirators? Would that mean one of the conspirators is in the District Attorney's office? Well if they already KNOW that...?!

That does it. I'm going to Red Lobster.
posted by ZachsMind at 11:54 AM on June 9, 2007


Were this in a Hollywood movie, a heist scene perhaps, I would have found it pretty clever. That it's being done, for real, by police officers?

Not cool. It's things like this, and their ability to seize and sell off people's property to fund their department that infuriate me about this drug war.

Miami Vice was fictional. Let's not treat it as an operations manual, OK?
posted by quin at 11:54 AM on June 9, 2007


So who is the local Sheriff in La Pine? Ian Fleming?
posted by Avenger at 11:59 AM on June 9, 2007


This reminds of an even more elaborate case where Canadian police pretending to be criminals staged a fake mob hit in order to make a suspect trust them and open up about a murder they thought the suspect was involved in. Didn't work though, the guy still said he knew nothing.
posted by bobo123 at 12:05 PM on June 9, 2007


So Season 7 of The Shield is going to be set in Oregon? This seems right out of the Vic Mackey playbook.
posted by Scoo at 12:11 PM on June 9, 2007


AHh! I remember the good-ole-days. Me and me bandmates
would be finishing a rehersal at the drummers house. We'd leave his house and soon after that, we'd be surrounded by 5 or more police cars. It weren't kool to be black on Porter street near Reno. No siree.
posted by doctorschlock at 12:44 PM on June 9, 2007


Puleeze people! This is a run of a mill seizure of a vehicle suspected of carrying drugs. The only difference is that they didn't want the gang to know they had the evidence so they could wrap up the arrest warrants before the suspects fled.

The author makes it seem like a pair of decent law-abiding folks stumbled into the situation.

This is the article's headline: Appeals Court Rules Cops Can Steal Cars and Lie to Victims To Conduct a Warrantless Search

Victims? Mr. Alverez-Tejada was a drug smuggler, which, last I checked, was illegal. He is not a victim here.

The car was not stolen. It was seized by law enforcement agents. They had probable cause. The only thing they didn't want to do was tip off the gang that they knew that they were smuggling.

The author calls the motor vehicle exception some sort of government-sanctioned judicial contribution to the war on drugs. This is an outright distortion, nay, lie.

Articles like this remind me why it is best not to get one's legal news from a publication that focuses on computers. I can't even start on this one.

Singel, the author, takes what would be a normal seizure with the twist that the police don't want the criminals to know that the drugs have been seized, and turns it into some weird new technique where the police can steal the cars of innocents.

Next, it is posted on metafilter and everyone screams about how the government is taking away our liberties.

I'm as anti-drug war as everyone else, and opposed to all of the encroachments we've seen in the past seven years, but sensationalist stories like this are what I expect from Karl Rove types, not our side.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:11 PM on June 9, 2007 [2 favorites]


Motor Vehicle Exception. You don't need a warrant to search a car if you have probably cause.

I think the problem here is what constitutes a search, not whether a warrant was needed. There is really nothing keeping public officials from crossing the line when it comes to the handling of suspects in particular situations, especially if there are strong initial indications that they are guilty. We live in state of isolating fear where the ends either justify the means, or otherwise result in a fat lawsuit. You can't be a criminal and a victim in a post 9/11 world.

But these are the good old days, anyway:

CRASH officers would get together at the Shortstop bar near Dodger Stadium in Echo Park to drink and celebrate shootings. Supervisors handed out plaques to shooters, containing red or black playing cards. A red card indicated a wounding, a black card indicated a killing, which was considered more prestigious. Perez testifies than at least one Rampart lieutenant attended these celebrations.
posted by phaedon at 1:17 PM on June 9, 2007 [1 favorite]


It's not clear why they chose to do it this way, but it doesn't seem like a particularly bad idea - it got the guy out of the car while avoiding a dangerous high-speed chase.

They had probable cause to search the car, but went ahead and obtained a warrant anyway, which is commendable.

So let's review the facts. Drug-transporting car was seized and searched, legally, with a warrant. No high-speed chase killed any innocent bystanders. Car's driver was taken into custody without having to be shot or killed. The larger drug gang wasn't tipped off that the cops were on to them. No violence, in fact, took place at all.

The only thing that a reasonable person could disagree with here is the idea that transportation of cocaine and methamphetamine is illegal. Some folks think this is a victimless crime or would argue on other grounds that it shouldn't be illegal.

But in fact it is illegal. That's not the fault of the cops tasked with enforcing the law. Sounds to me like they chose a way to do it in which no one got hurt, the law was upheld at all stages, and an ongoing investigation wasn't jeopardized.

What exactly is the major problem with that?
posted by ikkyu2 at 1:24 PM on June 9, 2007 [5 favorites]


ikkyu2's got it.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:26 PM on June 9, 2007


If you read the link you would see that the courts correctly interpreted that this "procedure" was improper in its execution, not necessarily its content. The DEA took excessive liberties in going forward independently and without any of the customary hurdles necessary in the oversight process (like a judge's consent).

Granted, I think most people are actually reacting to the procedure. The real issue here is rogue justice, which is a frighteningly slippery slope. A snarky way of saying that would be, "wouldn't taking down the bad guys be so much easier if we could just do whatever we wanted."
posted by limmer at 1:35 PM on June 9, 2007 [2 favorites]


Perez testifies than at least one Rampart lieutenant attended these celebrations.

Boy, this guy Perez sounds like a hero, what with uncovering police misconduct and all! Anyone know anything else about him?
posted by dhammond at 1:42 PM on June 9, 2007


IronMouth: "only thing they didn't want to do was tip off the gang that they knew that they were smuggling."

Because that would not be entrapment, and where's the fun in that?
posted by ZachsMind at 1:46 PM on June 9, 2007


Why go through all this trouble to stage this when they coulda just got a warrant?

because they wanted to sell the movie rights?
posted by pyramid termite at 1:47 PM on June 9, 2007


"Victims? Mr. Alverez-Tejada was a drug smuggler, which, last I checked, was illegal. He is not a victim here."

Nooooooooooooooobody is a victim here!

The only reason I don't do drugs is cuz they're illegal and I can't afford them. Wait, that's two reasons.

The only two reasons I don't do drugs is cuz they're illegal, expensive, and they might kill me - three reasons!

The only three reasons I don't do drugs is cuz they're illegal, expensive, dangerous, and I'm a chicken shit.

The only FOUR reasons I don't do drugs is cuz they're illegal, expensive, dangerous, not for the squeamish, and an almost fanatical devotion to Tommy Chong.. FIVE!

AMONGST my reasons for not doing drugs is cuz... uhm...

...I'll come in again.
posted by ZachsMind at 1:54 PM on June 9, 2007 [2 favorites]


Drug-transporting car was seized and searched, legally, with a warrant.

There was no warrant at the time of seizure. The article claims that the cops got a warrant after stealing the car, but before searching it and finding drugs. The distinction between "search" and "seizure" here, as if one is really necessary, is pretty fucking fine.

And you're saying that the warrantless seizure of the car, under false pretenses, was not theft? What if there had been no drugs in the car, and the cops' hunch had been wrong? Would it then have been theft?

Maybe the police should just start stealing cars off the streets, and from people's garages. They can joyride them, check for teh drugs, and if it all works out, hey, they knew all along you were a criminal, and breaking the law, and that means you deserved it.

The whole point of a warrant is that there's an established, fair way of determining whether someone is likely breaking the law, and then documenting the process leading from that inference to a physical investigation of the person's property. Nobody here is arguing that it is wrong to seize a purported criminal's car once a warrant is issued, even if it's in a straight-out-of-TV scheme that serves to prevent the alleged criminal of knowing the cops are on to his alleged scheme.
posted by rxrfrx at 2:22 PM on June 9, 2007 [1 favorite]


...and it's pretty sad that the only thing at issue in this case is whether the method of warrantless seizure was appropriate or not. Both parties agreed that it's OK for a warrantless seizure to occur, as long as it's a car.

YAY DRUGWAR!
posted by rxrfrx at 2:29 PM on June 9, 2007


And you're saying that the warrantless seizure of the car, under false pretenses, was not theft? What if there had been no drugs in the car, and the cops' hunch had been wrong? Would it then have been theft?

That was the point of the appeals' court ruling: probable cause was already in place. The warrant wasn't necessary. But they obtained it anyway. The judge who issued it presumably had the opportunity to say, "Put the car back on the road and let the suspects go," but he didn't.

You don't know why the cops chose to stop the car, and neither do I. It was probably more than a hunch. The appeals court did know what the cops were thinking, and they said the cops had "probable cause." The cops then went through due process.

The protections afforded to these suspected drug dealers are the same ones I'd want afforded to me if I were mistaken for a drug dealer. Specifically, if a judge told some cops to search my car after they'd taken me into custody this way, I'd expect my car to be searched. They wouldn't find anything, because I'm a law abiding citizen.

They'd then release me and give me my car back with some damage to the rear bumper. I'd've lost a day in custody, been embarrassed, and my girlfriend maybe would have puked. (But maybe she wouldn't, seeing as she never believed herself to be going down on a felony Federal drug rap.) No harm, no foul. I'd be glad to trade an episode like that for consistent, safe, effective policing of the community I live in according to the laws that are on the books.

This is nothing like what the Rampart cops did - shooting innocent people, framing them by placing faked evidence, conducting armed robbery of banks, stealing millions of dollars' worth of seized evidence and reselling it.
posted by ikkyu2 at 2:46 PM on June 9, 2007 [1 favorite]


The judge who issued it presumably had the opportunity to say, "Put the car back on the road and let the suspects go," but he didn't.

Did you read the article? "Once they got the car, the agents got a search warrant without telling the judge about the caper" (emphasis mine). It's pretty clear the cops knew they were in legally murky territory and tried to hide what was being done from the courts.

IronMouth: only thing they didn't want to do was tip off the gang that they knew that they were smuggling.

Heaven forfend a man know what he's being accused of, or, say, that he's being accused, when his property is being seized. I guess since drug dealers can't be victims, they're not entitled to due process, either.
posted by enn at 2:59 PM on June 9, 2007


Scoo, that exact same thing happened in the season finale (or the one before), they allowed a gang to rob a weapons store, then setup a fake situation which allowed the gang to escape but not with the looted weapons.
posted by cell divide at 3:00 PM on June 9, 2007


You don't know why the cops chose to stop the car, and neither do I. It was probably more than a hunch.

I would hope it was more than a hunch, but a post from barely a day ago suggests that sometimes this is not the case.

People make mistakes. I just think that with the amount of power the cops wield, they should take greater steps to ensure that they are totally accurate. In this case, the car did have drugs, but because they hadn't followed any appropriate procedure, they could have easily had a bad hunch and inconvenienced or harmed an innocent person.

That is my complaint. They made a good bust. But they did it in such a way that oversight is difficult. If they opted to do this again in the future and got it wrong, how would we ever know?
posted by quin at 3:07 PM on June 9, 2007


You don't know why the cops chose to stop the car

part of the facts of the case was that these cops had purchased drugs from this car before hatching this cunning plan.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 3:09 PM on June 9, 2007


Specifically, if a judge told some cops to search my car after they'd taken me into custody this way, I'd expect my car to be searched. They wouldn't find anything, because I'm a law abiding citizen

your naiveté is . . . touching ;)
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 3:22 PM on June 9, 2007 [2 favorites]


Tomorrow I shall rear end and then steal somebody's car, all as part of a citizen's arrest.

I fucking love this country.

Who wants new cars?
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 5:54 PM on June 9, 2007


I want to know how the Motor Vehicle Exception would have played out in the days when the Constitution was written. "Excuse me, Sir. I am going to have to inspect your horse."
posted by grapefruitmoon at 6:53 PM on June 9, 2007


I'm with ikkyu2 that the MeFi Standard Knee-Jerk Fuck Tha' Pigs reaction is off base with this case. A simple objective reading of the facts shows that. The law is the law. I see lots of complaints, but no useful reaction.

The only thing that raises my hackles here is that the police apparently rammed this person's car ("a pickup truck behind him rear-ended him") to set up the event. It's one thing to flash a badge and search a car. It's another to lie to people in order to set up a sting. But it's still quite another to actually ram someone's car out of the clear blue sky. Too much can go wrong there, and there's a case for vehicular battery.
posted by frogan at 8:35 PM on June 9, 2007


YAY DRUGWAR!

I find it funny that the anti-drug war crowd doesn't seem to differentiate between the drugs themselves (or the volume of drugs) and their class of criminality.

I would totally agree that sentencing guidelines for low level drug violations involving marijuana is insane. But as you escalate up the criminal ladder, the lefty "screw the cops" argument falls apart.

A court sends Tommy Chong to jail for making bongs? Fuck those guys.

But a giant grow-op guarded by dudes with automatic weapons? Fuck those guys.

And in this Wired story ... gangs dealing cocaine and cooking meth ... fuck those guys.
posted by frogan at 8:42 PM on June 9, 2007


frogan: Too much can go wrong there, and there's a case for vehicular battery.

There is absolutely a case for it. What if the cops had the wrong car? What if the information was bad and the passengers were innocent? What if other vehicles had become involved in the collision? That was absolutely not ok, and I think the police involved should all be prosecuted for it.

The police do not get to assault others unless their lives, or the lives of others, are endangered. NOT EVER. Violating that is probably the worst thing a cop can do, and they did that here.
posted by Mitrovarr at 8:46 PM on June 9, 2007 [1 favorite]


The other funny thing about the Wired story is the photo running with it.

* It's not credited.
* It's not captioned.
* It provides no context.

What the hell is happening in this photo? Who is being arrested here? Is that the car that was "stolen?" Is it even a real photo? Is this related to the case referenced in the article?

Or is this the work of a dipshit editor trolling clip art files for something that makes the DEA look like the Stormtroopers?

Bad editor! No cigarette!
posted by frogan at 8:53 PM on June 9, 2007


"Articles like this remind me why it is best not to get one's legal news from a publication that focuses on computers."

It's also on the California Appellate Report n'stuff.

"The law is the law. I see lots of complaints, but no useful reaction."

Other than the two court rulings are conflicted. So it's not that cut and dried.
posted by Smedleyman at 10:11 PM on June 9, 2007


Other than the two court rulings are conflicted. So it's not that cut and dried.

There's no conflict at all. The appeals court overturned the lower court's decision in a 3-0 ruling.

This is how the law works. ;-)

Unless this keeps going up to the Supreme Court...
posted by frogan at 11:58 PM on June 9, 2007


frogan, rewind your browser a few pages, we already covered the "drug dealers cannot be victims and therefore there was no wrongdoing by the police" argument. It invites government oppression to say that the end justifies the means in law enforcement. That's Dick Cheney's line, except you have to substitute a different word for "drugs."

Meth and coke are bad, but if a completely constitutional, ethical enforcement of a "war on drugs" type policy doesn't work, it doesn't follow that we should step it up by inflicting mandatory minimum sentences and using law enforcement techniques that violate the intent of the Bill of Rights.
posted by rxrfrx at 5:19 AM on June 10, 2007


we already covered the "drug dealers cannot be victims and therefore there was no wrongdoing by the police" argument. ... That's Dick Cheney's line, except you have to substitute a different word for "drugs."

Niiiice strawman. High degree of difficulty. I think you're looking at a bronze medal at least, and maybe a silver if the guy from Romania pulls a hamstring.
posted by frogan at 10:59 AM on June 10, 2007


ZachsMind, that isn't entrapment. Entrapment occurs (roughly) when an agent of the government suggests and induces another to commit a crime.

Here, we have people who are engaged in crime on their own without any help from the cops.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:14 PM on June 10, 2007


Again, I'm arguing about the presentation of the article, not the drug dealer.

I am personally opposed to the drug war. But the article is inaccurate on the state of the law. That is wrong.

The police had reason to suspect that the car had drugs. It belonged to the head of someone they believed to be the head of a drug gang. The suspect worked for that person and carried drugs in the car.

I do think there is a vehicular battery charge in here. But that wouldn't be enough to get the drug dealer off. Yes the police were wrong to hit the car, whether deliberately or not.

The motor-vehicle exception makes sense to me. I think it is good law.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:20 PM on June 10, 2007


Strawman? I think it's reasonable to say that the remark "gangs dealing cocaine and cooking meth ... fuck those guys" was roughly equivalent to "drug dealers deserve anything they get."
posted by rxrfrx at 1:42 PM on June 10, 2007


It's clear that the police could've legally seized the vehicle in the normal fashion without a warrant, and it's also clear that they could've used reasonable force to effect the seizure.

The only issue, then, is whether a perpetrator needs to be told that property is being seized by the police, and I frankly don't see why they would in a case like this. If there's no reason to keep a seizure secret, it's probably best to do it the normal way, but there was a pretty good reason here.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 5:22 PM on June 10, 2007


Yeah, there's not much going on here. The cops were authorized to seize the car; the only issue here is the method they chose. Why would the court punish a clever method of seizure that allowed the cops to remain invisible while simultaneously preventing a hostile and potentially violent confrontation?

1L derail: I've spent a lot of time recently wondering why I'm in law school. There is something cool about reading a decision like this and knowing all the cases they're talking about. Ah, U.S. v. Jacobsen, I didn't think I'd see you again...
posted by bjrubble at 8:15 PM on June 10, 2007


Heywood Mogroot, if you want to argue that the drugs in this case were planted in the car as false evidence, feel free.

If that were true it would make a pretty strong case against what these cops did. I haven't heard anyone else suggest that yet, though. Seems like these were actual drug dealers doing some actual illicit transportation. What's the big problem with them getting nabbed?
posted by ikkyu2 at 12:52 AM on June 11, 2007


"Seems like these were actual drug dealers doing some actual illicit transportation. What's the big problem with them getting nabbed?"

I love the anti-American notion that because people are breaking the law, any means are acceptable in order to catch them. It's almost as depressing as your previous comment about how you would have been fine if you'd been treated this way, which both strains credulity and misses the point.
I am amazed that people consider this a reasonable search and seizure.
posted by klangklangston at 9:40 AM on June 11, 2007


Strawman? I think it's reasonable to say that the remark "gangs dealing cocaine and cooking meth ... fuck those guys" was roughly equivalent to "drug dealers deserve anything they get."

Except I didn't say "drug dealers deserve anything they get," but you jumped to compare me with Cheney, anyway. Hence the 3.2 strawman misdirection degree of difficulty you were awarded with. Quite impressive, that.

What I was saying was ... it's odd how the anti-drug-war crowd doesn't seem to differentiate between classes of drugs and their associated criminal communities. The guy with the bag of weed is both prosecuted AND defended with almost equal vigor as the guy with the trunkful of meth and the automatic weapons.

Tommy Chong is not Pablo Escobar, and neither law enforcement NOR the lefty "legalize it" crowd should confuse the two.
posted by frogan at 11:09 AM on June 11, 2007


I am amazed that people consider this a reasonable search and seizure.

I'd love to hear what you think IS a reasonable search and seizure. Seriously. You're the judge. Give me some ideas on when you would approve a warrant and when you wouldn't. Go.
posted by frogan at 11:11 AM on June 11, 2007


"The guy with the bag of weed is both prosecuted AND defended with almost equal vigor as the guy with the trunkful of meth and the automatic weapons."

Why, it's almost as if our legal system is designed, rightly, to give equal protection to all criminals!

"I'd love to hear what you think IS a reasonable search and seizure. Seriously. You're the judge. Give me some ideas on when you would approve a warrant and when you wouldn't. Go."

Reasonable search and seizure? Well, it would have started with a warrant, given that they knew in advance where this guy was going to be and when (making exigency irrelevant). And I'd probably hold the general War on Drugs seizures to be unreasonable, given that they require people to demonstrate their innocence rather than having the government demonstrate guilt (and because the government has a direct interest in using funds/property confiscated, which conflicts with the public interest in justice).
posted by klangklangston at 11:36 AM on June 11, 2007


Well, it would have started with a warrant

You didn't answer the question. Of course a reasonable search and seizure would require a warrant. I asked what you think is reasonable cause to issue the warrant in the first place.

And I'd probably hold the general War on Drugs seizures to be unreasonable, given that they require people to demonstrate their innocence

That's upside down. When in a warrant process does someone demonstrate their innocence? To get a warrant, cops go before a judge (or in the case of a warrant-less search, it's supposed to be based on a reasonable suspicion). This obviously happens outside of the knowledge of the person to be searched.

I'm asking you (because I'm truly curious) ... you're a cop ... you think a guy is carting around illegal materials (of whatever kind) in his trunk ... what evidence do you think should be required to present to a judge in order for him/her to issue a warrant to open the trunk? And is there EVER a reasonable cause for warrant-less search?
posted by frogan at 11:52 AM on June 11, 2007


Why, it's almost as if our legal system is designed, rightly, to give equal protection to all criminals!

And again, I'm not talking about the legal system. I'm talking about people's reactions to the "drug war." When people say they hate the drug war, they invariably pop up with examples about crazy marijuana sentencing, and not harder drugs and distribution crime. There's some fingers in ears here.
posted by frogan at 11:55 AM on June 11, 2007


“This is how the law works. ;-)
Unless this keeps going up to the Supreme Court...”
posted by frogan

True, but there was disagreement between courts as to what was permissable (granted, overruled, but the point being the issue was contested) And a law, if it is in violation of constitutional rights, should be invalidated. And as you say, it could be further appealed.
But I also disagree with the spirit of “the law is the law.” Clearly laws (or rather constitutional changes) like alcohol prohibition, et.al do more harm than good and should be rescinded, but the matter is more complex here.
What’s at issue is what is permissible in serving a warrant - in this case police caused an accident on a public street. And violated the law (in terms of vehicular battery and property damage, yes, but also public endangerment) while serving the warrant.
I have no dispute with the creative aspects of how they executed this, but you can’t selectively enforce the law.
The excuse that no one else was harmed doesn’t obviate the fact that the potential for harm existed.
If SWAT busts in a door on a house to execute a warrant you don’t hold them responsible for damage incidental to serving the warrant. So if they’re looking for drugs or something and they bust open the closets, the couch, etc - it’s within the realm of reason, even if the damage itself isn’t exactly appropriate. If the suspect shows up a little bruised, it’s quite possible he resisted. Again, damage of that order or use of force on that level is understandable. Stomping on, say, the house cat, bit excessive, but again - who’s to say it wasn’t an accident.
If however during the course of the search the neighbor comes out to water his lawn and is shot at from within the house (because he’s got one of those point and shoot style sprinklers) he should hold the police liable.
The bullets didn’t actually hit him, but his life was in peril through no fault of his own.
Similar situation here, people have the right to drive along a public street without the police *creating* dangerous situations. A chase on city streets is a different (albeit related) issue - one can argue that the immanent harm in letting the bad guy go is greater than the harm in chasing him, further - the police didn’t create the situation. Here the police had control of the situation, and - by design - created a potential hazard. What most concerns me is that this was all done under the administrative custody laws BEFORE they got a warrant. I suspect that was done that way because they wanted to avoid judicial oversight in that, I very much doubt any judge would authorize a warrant under these kinds of circumstances.
But the DEA is full of cowboy assholes. (Who don’t like to do PT).
So they may well have been within the law, but this type of behavior is too cavalier and the law should be changed to prevent it.
Number of other ways to acheive the same goal without causing an accident on public streets.
posted by Smedleyman at 12:10 PM on June 11, 2007


"You didn't answer the question. Of course a reasonable search and seizure would require a warrant. I asked what you think is reasonable cause to issue the warrant in the first place."

So you agree that this example was unreasonable search and seizure? Because a warrant was only obtained afterwards, without a full disclosure to either judge or accused regarding the situation?

"That's upside down. When in a warrant process does someone demonstrate their innocence? To get a warrant, cops go before a judge (or in the case of a warrant-less search, it's supposed to be based on a reasonable suspicion). This obviously happens outside of the knowledge of the person to be searched."

I was making an offhand reference to property forfeiture.

"And again, I'm not talking about the legal system. I'm talking about people's reactions to the "drug war." When people say they hate the drug war, they invariably pop up with examples about crazy marijuana sentencing, and not harder drugs and distribution crime. There's some fingers in ears here."

And again, I AM talking about the legal system. Whenever hard drugs come up, people use it as an excuse to undermine the protections of the legal system, drawing the line based on their own personal bugaboos about the supposed "hardness" of any given drug.

It's like saying "Well, I like free speech and all, but Hustler's beyond the pale."
posted by klangklangston at 12:29 PM on June 11, 2007


I am amazed that people consider this a reasonable search and seizure.

Why? I don't think it's ever been the law that every search requires a warrant under the Fourth Amendment. There is a long history of exceptions, stretching back to the common law, providing that a warrant is not needed to search an area in which a person has no reasonable expectation of privacy. For over 80 years, it's been the law in this country that people don't have a reasonable expectation of privacy while driving in their cars.

Cars can't be searched at a whim, but in this case, the police had sound reason to believe that the car was probably being used to transport drugs. Under well-established law, they could legally seize and search the car without a warrant.

If the police may legally seize and search a vehicle, there's never been a requirement that they inform the owner, the driver, or anyone else that they are doing so. The court of appeals decision is absolutely correct.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 2:45 PM on June 11, 2007


So you agree that this example was unreasonable search and seizure? Because a warrant was only obtained afterwards, without a full disclosure to either judge or accused regarding the situation?

I'd really like you to answer my question as to what you think IS reasonable. But if you're not interested, so be it.

Whenever hard drugs come up, people use it as an excuse to undermine the protections of the legal system, drawing the line based on their own personal bugaboos about the supposed "hardness" of any given drug.

And I say, whenever drugs come up, of any kind, people use the "keep the cops away from my stash, maaaaannnn" argument based on their own personal perferences, as if all crimes are equal in terms of their impact on society. That lapses of perspective regarding

I said it before, I'll say it again ... the guy with the baggie of weed is harmless. The guy with the meth lab isn't. We shouldn't ignore Hell's Angels Meth Lab Guy in our haste to keep the Phish fan from getting busted. The guys from NORML would do well to draw this distinction, but instead, the knee-jerk reaction is ... well ... keep the cops away from my stash, maaaaannnn.
posted by frogan at 2:55 PM on June 11, 2007


"I'd really like you to answer my question as to what you think IS reasonable. But if you're not interested, so be it."

That's OK. You're not interested in my questions either. It's almost as if there's some Akbar macro lurking behind rhetorical devices. (Plus, I did answer your question. An answer is not a guarantee of an answer that you'll like.)

"I said it before, I'll say it again"

I've said it before, and I'll say it again— Straw man arguments harsh my mellow.

"For over 80 years, it's been the law in this country that people don't have a reasonable expectation of privacy while driving in their cars."

Actually, the ultimate outcome of State v. Bruski (2006 WI App 53, 289 Wis.2d 704, 711 N.W.2d 679, 683) was that no bright line rule exists regarding the expectation of privacy within a vehicle. The court held that there is an expectation of privacy in some cases, just not in Bruski's (where a travel case was searched after police found Bruski passed out in someone else's car).

"If the police may legally seize and search a vehicle, there's never been a requirement that they inform the owner, the driver, or anyone else that they are doing so. The court of appeals decision is absolutely correct."

Never been a requirement? Then how come Dalia v. US imposes restrictions on delayed notification searches? How come section 213 of the Patriot Act is so controversial?
posted by klangklangston at 3:44 PM on June 11, 2007


Actually, the ultimate outcome of State v. Bruski (2006 WI App 53, 289 Wis.2d 704, 711 N.W.2d 679, 683) was that no bright line rule exists regarding the expectation of privacy within a vehicle.

The police officer there didn't have probable cause to search the car, so the motor vehicle exception to the warrant requirement wasn't in play. I should've been more clear in my original post, but the exception rests on the officer having probable cause to believe there's contraband in the car at the time of search.

Never been a requirement? Then how come Dalia v. US imposes restrictions on delayed notification searches?

You're correct that there needs to be notice within a reasonable time frame, but there was here. There's no requirement of pre-search notice to make a warrantless search.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 4:11 PM on June 11, 2007


They wouldn't find anything, because I'm a law abiding citizen.

The police have never planted evidence on an innocent person to cover up their mistakes? How can can someone so smart be so naive?
posted by Optimus Chyme at 5:47 PM on June 11, 2007


Oh Optimus Chyme, you know that police abuses like that only happen on TV.
posted by rxrfrx at 6:52 PM on June 11, 2007


The police have never planted evidence on an innocent person to cover up their mistakes? How can can someone so smart be so naive?

I think your argument proves too much. The police can plant evidence during a search regardless of whether they have a warrant and regardless of whether the search was made with notice.

Rather than smugly sniping at ikkyu2, maybe you should take a moment to examine what exactly this discussion is about. Nobody was arguing that the police never abuse their power; people were just arguing that a legal, warrantless vehicle search without prior notice is not an objectionable abuse of power if done for a good reason.

Of course the police could plant drugs. They could plant drugs even if they did give you notice. They could plant drugs even if they had a warrant. It's just not relevant here.

I think ikkyu2 has the very sensible perspective that "only search guilty people" isn't a workable rule and that innocent persons are going to be searched by the police. With that in mind, a warrantless vehicle search without notice is not necessarily any more objectionable than any other sort of legal search.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 7:14 PM on June 11, 2007


Planting evidence? Hell, they confiscate and smoke far more than they plant. If I had a dollar for every time the cops just made someone dump out an eighth, I'd be a millionaire many times over.

Speaking of the knee-jerk reactions, how about the fact that in this country, it is generally assumed that John Q. Law is doing something wrong.

Also, in the time of the founders, no constitutional requirement that the cops needed a warrant existed--the bill of rights did not apply to the states, which then, as now, hold the police power. That's right, there was no constitutional guarantee existed to protect your home. You had the common law, but there was no federal police forces, so basically, the founders did exactly zip to prevent horse searches.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:43 PM on June 11, 2007


I'm glad that Optimus Chyme and rxrfrx picked up on the same little detail that Heywood Mogroot did! I thought you were all a bunch of fools - that my intelligence and skills would dupe you all!

But no! You saw right through me! You uncovered my secret!

That's right - I'm in favor of cops planting evidence! Dirty cops, planting false evidence and jailing innocent men! Woo! Go frame-ups! And here I thought I had put it over on all of you!

Only one thing remains to be told, you three: how did you KNOW??
posted by ikkyu2 at 12:03 AM on June 12, 2007


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