Drug Policy

Criminal Justice Roundup


The bad….

• The Supreme Court unanimously rules that evidence seized during arrests that are illegal under state law can still be used at trial.

• The city of Memphis is seizing the automobiles of suspected Johns. Not convicted, just suspected.

The Ninth Circuit becomes the second federal appeals court to allow federal agents to snoop around in the laptops of people entering the country, even without probable cause that a crime has been committed.

The good…

Argentina decriminalizes drug consumption. I'm trying to remember the last time the government of Argentina got anything right.

• Alaska appeals court says it will no longer tolerate "implicitly coercive" searches during traffic stops.

• Virginia's Supreme Court tosses out two drug cases in which police conducted searches without probable cause.

NEXT: The Green Fairy's Lollipops

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  1. Did the Ninth Court Circuit also rule that "its for the children"?

  2. If the state of Alaska would just change its freezing climate, I would move there.

  3. ? The Supreme Court unanimously rules that evidence seized during arrests that are illegal under state law can still be used at trial.

    Awwwwww FUCK
    NO!!!! NO no no no no no no no no
    Son of a bitch that's depressing.
    Damn it's been a while since the SCOTUS lurched that far into fascism. God this is depressing. I need a drink. Srsly!

  4. At trial, Moore's lawyers tried to suppress the evidence, but the state judge allowed it, even though the court noted the arrest violated state law. A police detective, asked why the man was arrested, replied, "Just our prerogative."


  5. If the state of Alaska would just change its freezing climate, I would move there.

    The frontier is always the freest, but usually the most uncomfortable.

  6. That's a whole lotta bad, and good? Not so much.

    Warren--I'm with you. You got the first round?

  7. Another bang up job from the SCROTUS.

  8. "If the state of Alaska would just change its freezing climate, I would move there."

    I'm working on that.

  9. Okay does this mean that law enforcement can arrest someone and then search them because they are already arrested, with or without probable cause?

    Tell me its not as bad as that

  10. So if you're searching for a hooker, go on foot, take public transport, or take a really cheap second-hand car.

  11. The Good, The Bad....still waiting for The Ugly.

  12. Since the case in the first link overturned a similar virginia supreme court ruling, I think the states court's attempt to keep the 'semper' in the state motto described in the last link will be similarly overturned.

  13. I hear that Warren.
    Damn, this is depressing.
    I need an absinthe lollypop.

  14. "The arrest rules that the officers violated were those of state law alone," Scalia said. "It is not the province of the Fourth Amendment to enforce state law."

    I wonder what other amendments do not apply to state laws. Can the South resegregate? Can California outlaw that anti-global warming hate speech?

    Sweet Cthulhu

  15. A total of 55 people are facing class A misdemeanor charges of patronizing prostitution, since police said their arrests took place within 1.5 miles of schools.

    Was school in session? Otherwise, it's just a building, you overbearing fucks.

  16. JParker,

    Actually, I'm wondering how this Court cannot retroactively invalidate the results of Bush v. Gore, given that logic.

  17. I got my driver's license and went through high school in Alaksa. I never really got the whole "pig cop" thing; they always seemed to go out of their way to do only their job. I had several encounters with several different officers and no problems. Though there should could have been.

    Of course, once I moved to WA state I got the "pig cop" thing in a hurry. It started when I got stopped for a cracked windshield. And went downhill from there.

  18. Why aren't the cops fired for arresting someone in violation of state law?

  19. Or at least leaving themselves wide open for a lawsuit. Unlawful arrest, etc.

  20. Why aren't the cops fired for arresting someone in violation of state law?

    He He. Good one.

  21. I wonder if pressure from the US will affect Argentina's decision any. I wonder why Chavez never did anything regarding drugs just to piss off the US.

  22. I would just like to point out that, as much as people want to marginalize the issue of the Drug War in the Age of Terror, that earlier "war" was the staging ground for the present one and continues to be the frontier, along which government makes steady progress in quashing our liberties. Today's news is just one more example.

    The pols think that the economy and the Iraq War (or the potential War with Iran) will be the big issues in November. Instead, We the People might be smarter to do a fake out and hang our officials out to dry on the Drug War issue: Don't elect or re-elect anyone who isn't pledged to ending or seriously thwarting the Drug War. (And send them notices of your intentions well in advance of the election, now, while it is still months away.) Vote for ballot measures -- even non-binding advisory resolutions, if those are your only options -- which oppose the Drug War.

    Why make the Drug War a "big thing" in a year when so much else demands our attention? Two reasons: 1) As I said above, the Drug War has served as the rehearsal for past and future incursions on our liberties, including those curtailed during the War on Terror; 2) We are told, over and over again, that it is impossible, or at least very irresponsible, to end the exercises in Iraq and Afghanistan immediately. No matter what We the People do or say, it is likely that we'll still be making something like war in the mideast for awhile yet. But the Drug War is something that we can end immediately: Just say "No More!" The irresponsible thing in this case is to continue the Drug War as Usual, destroying lives and burning piles of cash every day until who knows when? It's been over 40 years now, with victory "just around the corner" every year. How Orwellian. Let's just call a stop to the whole farce and put the poobahs in DC on the defensive. Once the dust has settled, which shouldn't take all that long, we can worry about how to get a real end to the quagmire in the middle east. But we won't have the domestic Drug War to distract us, and our efforts can then be all the more effective for the additional focus.

    Hey, it's a shot, and I think it's worth trying. Thanks for listening.

  23. The Supreme Court unanimously rules that evidence seized during arrests that are illegal under state law can still be used at trial.

    In this Virginia case, the US Supreme Court rules that in spite of a bad arrest, the drugs found lead to a conviction of the person involved.

    Virginia's Supreme Court tosses out two drug cases in which police conducted searches without probable cause.

    In these Virginia cases, the VA Supreme Court rules that because of bad searches, the drugs found cannot be used to convict the persons involved.

    I find myself asking the same (unanswered) question as Justice Ginsberg: "Would you explain the logic to saying that when the police violate state law, then the evidence can come in, but when they comply with state law, it can't," she asked.

  24. ""Under state law in such incidents, only a summons is to be issued and the motorist is to be allowed to go. Instead, detectives detained Moore for almost an hour, arrested him, then searched him and found cocaine."""

    What's the odds that the cop was going to give him a ticket and let him go until Moore said no to a consent based search. The cop didn't like it, and decided to arrest him instead as a work-around.

    Scalia would want Moore to sue for the illegal arrest, if he believed his own new professionalism BS.

  25. The city of Memphis is seizing the automobiles of suspected Johns. Not convicted, just suspected.

    Wow, just like DC! Or just like DC used to be. Is DC still doing this? I don't hear about it any more around here.

  26. In other crime news: there has been a shooting/murder spree going on in the gun free zone of Chicago since the weekend. Waiting for just exactly which suburb is getting the blame this time.

  27. The city of Memphis is seizing the automobiles of suspected Johns. Not convicted, just suspected.

    Wow, just like DC! Or just like DC used to be. Is DC still doing this? I don't hear about it any more around here.

    This is what happened, the Capital Hill motor pool wanted all of their vehicles back, so ...

  28. Why aren't the cops fired for arresting someone in violation of state law?

    Why aren't they arrested?

  29. I'm checking Expedia & Travelocity for vacation packages in Buenos Aires.

  30. The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

    So, SCOTUS thinks a search that violates the law is "reasonable"? And by a 9-0 decision no less? WTF?

  31. So what is left of the exclusionary rule after this SCROTUS decision?

  32. SCOTUS believes you can be arrested for anything against the law no matter how little, including running a stop sign or red light. If the state says it's a no no, then SCOTUS believes the officers have a right to arrest. And oddly that the state can not discriminate as to which offenses are arrestable. It's as if they are saying to the states, no nos are arrestable, if you don't want people arrested for it, don't make it a no no.

    Lately, SCOTUS has been hostile to the exclusion rule.

  33. "The Laws is an Ass"

    by Robert Heinlen

  34. Once arrested you have no right to not be searched + you can be arrested for anything legal or not = you have no right to not be searched.

  35. I hate to be the apologist for the Supremes here, but I think they might have gotten this one right.

    Correct me if my understanding of the decision is wrong...

    The question is, did the search violate the 4th amendment or some other provision of the constitution. Thats the only question the Supremes can really go into in this situation.

    Now, a search is constitutional if it is "incident to a lawful arrest." At least thats the normal phrasing. So does lawful mean 'complies with all applicable laws' or 'constitutional?' For the Supremes, it really only means constitutional, or possibly also complying with federal law, since they aren't in the business of judging state law (except for the constitutionality of state law).

    It seems that in this case we have a situation where the arrest was 'constitutional,' in that an arrest subsequent to the commission of a misdemeanor offense does not violate the US constitution. However, the arrest was unlawful under state law. This is a rare situation, since most arrests that would be constitutionally permissible are also in compliance with state law.

    So if the question is "can an arrest that is constitutional be sufficient to support a search incident to that arrest, even if the arrest violates state law?" then the answer would be yes, at least as far as the US Supreme Court is concerned.

    It boils down to the Supremes can only judge the constitutionality of the matter and nothing more. And based solely on that, the arrest and search do not violate the 4th amendment.

    For them to decide otherwise would be an overreach of their constitutional powers.

    That being said, the arresting officer(s) should be tried for kidnapping or some other appropriate criminal charge, and the defendant should be able to bring a civil suit for the intentional tort of unlawful arrest.

  36. Sorry if this was already covered above, but regardless of Scalia's grandstanding, the SCOTUS ruling was basically that the state court is the arbiter of state evidence law. I'm sure that the state court's ruling made many of them puke in their mouths a bit, but they rightly managed to find some federal limits for once. It's a shame that they only found them on this case.

  37. I had to check twice to make sure the car seizure story wasn't from The Onion. And I quote:

    "Added Memphis Police director Larry Godwin: 'I'd say seize every dadgum vehicle and send a message.'"

    With that last name and that quote, this guy should be on every blog going. I wonder if there's some sort of AP style note on the use of "dadgum"

  38. Almost makes me want to forgive them for the Falklands War . . . almost.

  39. OGRE-
    how can a damn illegal thing be constitutional?
    (serious question)

  40. Rimfax-
    The Va court of appeals upheld the conviction but the Va state supreme court overturned based on the fact that the search was invalidated due to the violation of state law.

    The commonwealth's attorneys sought (obviously successfully) to get their own supreme court's opinion of state evidence law overturned.

  41. In response to -'s question:

    Lots of things are illegal but do not violate the constitution. If I commit petty larceny by stealing $50 from your wallet, I have committed an illegal act. But I haven't violated the US Constitution.

    In the case at bar, we have an arrest that normally would be legal. In most states it would be legal. The general principle is that a law enforcement officer can arrest a person who commits a misdemeanor offense in his presence. That is constitutional.

    The only reason it is unlawful is because that particular state has a statute stating that it is a "ticketable" offense, thereby taking away the law enforcement officer's authority to arrest. That does not in itself make the arrest unconstitutional as far as the US constitution goes. In the absence of that state statute, there would have been no problem; or, if the arrest had been made in another state that didn't have a similar statute, there would have been no problem.

    The Supremes can only judge such a case by whether or not it violates the US Constitution. Since the arrest was pursuant to the commission of a misdemeanor offense in the officer's presence, it is. It might be illegal in that particular state, but it does not violate the US Constitution.

    I'm actually glad to see the Supreme Court restrain themselves here. If they had ruled otherwise they would have been exceeding their authority.

    To turn things on its head, lets try the opposite. Assume that a state makes a statute that says police can arrest any person who drives a motor vehicle and can search the person and vehicle, even without probable cause that a crime has been committed. An arrest under that statute would be lawful under state law, but it--and any subsequent search--would violate the US Constitution.

  42. Another reason to hate Memphis. I never have liked Memphis. Whose idea was it to put skyscrapers next to the federal housing?

  43. OGRE-
    Thanks for the response.

    What still bothers me about saying 'the (Supreme) court restrained itself' is that it is endorsing a permissive environment for the executive branch (i.e. the cops & prosecutors) to disobey a state law which the state court attempted to enforce - and in the direction of greater *individual* sovereignty.

    I mean, the original theory of federalism was the states would be better at protecting individual rights than a federal government. Now history has shown that this in fact has not been the case. But when the state is able actually do this, it's seem odd for the federal level to swoop down and reverse it in the direction of greater state, and specifically executive power.

    I could see if the specifics of the case caused a multi-state or federal jurisdiction; or, if the va state court opinion was upheld but could not be cited a precedent in other states because it depended on the specifics of state law. But I still am amazed that the supreme court can tell a state that it's enforcing civil liberties too strongly.

  44. Well the problem here is that the VA supreme court based their decision on the US Constitution, thereby permitting the US Supreme Court to review it. I'm not familiar with VA state law, so I don't know if they have an exclusionary rule or not; they might rely completely on the 4th Ammendment in that regard. If so, then its a failure of VA to protect the rights of its citizens. If they have such state level protections, then its the fault of the VA supreme court for not relying on state level protections and instead relying on the 4th and allowing the US Supreme Court to step in.

    The US Supreme Court CANNOT get in the business of determining federal constitutional law based on state law. That would be a huge blow to federalism.

    All the Supremes are saying here is that as far as the US Constitution is concerned, a constitutionally permissible arrest allows a search incident to such an arrest. Whether state law prohibits (or allows!) an arrest in any particular circumstance has no bearing on the arrest as far as the US Constitution is concerned.

    This decision does not allow police to make unconstitutional arrests and then conduct searches and use evidence found from such searches. If the arrest in this case was unconstitutional, the evidence recovered subsequent to the search would have been excluded.

    So all the Court is left to decide--really all it can decide--is whether the arrest is constitutionally permissible. Which it was.

    Just to note, I am completely against this ridiculous drug war at all levels and would certainly have preferred the man to go free. And I think the arresting officer here should be fired, criminally charged, and found civilly liable to the defendant. But I can't fault the US Supreme Court for deciding how they did. They reached the only decision they are allowed to reach given their authority and the parameters of the case.

    (I would, however, have been quite pleased if they decided that the 9th amendment prohibited VA from enacting legislation that criminalizes victimless conduct such as drug possession, in that the people have retained the right to act as they wish as long as they harm no others. But I doubt that will ever happen.)

  45. Naga,

    I live in Memphis, and work downtown, so I'm pretty familiar with every building that could reasonably termed a "skyscraper" in Memphis.

    Which skyscraper is located next to a housing project? I don't know of one.

  46. Ogre- Virginia does not have the exclusionary rule. I believe they passed a statute to that effect. The guy was quashing his illegal (by Virginia statute for the crime arreted on - driving with no license) arrest. No arrest, then no search incident to arrest. However, because of a lack of state remedy for exclusion for illegal arrests the guy argued a federal 4th amendment violation in State court.

    In many States that retain the exclusionary rule, however, the State constitution's have a section that mirrors the language of the 4th amendment almost (if not entirely) exactly the same. So in IL for example, the IL Sup Ct will decide cases in "lockstep" with the U.S. Sup Ct on 4th amendment issues.

    Which leads to a very absurd result (because IL does have the exclusionary rule unlike Virginia) - an arrest illegal under IL law performed by a State officer that leads to a search and recovery of drugs or whatever would be interpreted in locktstep with U.S. Sup Ct precedent, which now is Virginia v. Moore. End result, IL's (state) exclusionary rule would seem to disappear regardless of whether the original challenge to the search came via IL constitution's version of the search and seizure clause OR the federal 4th Amend (or both as many people throw in the kitchen sink on their motions to quash) as they are interperted the same.

    I should add - I fucking hate this decision with a passion. Combined with other Sup Ct abortions such as Whren and Atwater, etc... the cops have no incentive to NOT profile (pretextual stops completely legal per the Whren) for petty ass crimes (Atwater- seat belt only infraction leading to custodial arrest) and cops searching incident to the bogus arrest and the evidence coming in. FUCK!!!!!! What incentive do the police have to NOT break the law ? Worse case scenario, their heavy handed tactics do not turn up drugs and the illegal arrest for the petty offense gets tossed. The upside, whatever "serious" crimes they uncover (drugs and guns mostly) they can go to trial on and win. God this sucks on so many levels.

  47. @twistedmerkin

    Another bang up heck'ava job from the SCROTUS.

    Fixed the for 'ya.

  48. I should add, to the poster above who asked about civil remedies for illegal arrest: Good f-in luck. Unless the cops put the guy in the hospital and he has major medical bills, no attorney in the world can take those cases on a contingency basis - as there are little to no damages to recover and sufficient hurdles in the way that could prevent any recovery at all (various forms of qualified immunity, etc...). If the guy was illegally arrested and then found to have felony amounts of drugs and is in jail - - its even harder. I think those cases were targeted for "tort reform" and are now just as worthless to pursue as other illegal arrest cases. That is why I feel that suppression of evidence is the ONLY reliable way to change police misconduct (although they are good at getting around suppression with plain-view and consent and all the other warrant exceptions). Suppression is tangible and has immediate affect - i.e, the State cant use the evidence they found against the guy.

  49. Orge, your understanding is correct. There is a reason it was 9-0. A cop has a right to arrest you for anything against the law no matter how little. That's why I laugh when people think decriminaliztion of pot would equal no arrests. If a cop can write you a ticket, the cop can decide to arrest instead.

    The next course of action would be for the cop to get fired for the unlawful, albeit constitutional arrest. I'm not holding my breath.

    The lesson is that we shouldn't be lulled into a false sense of what should happen when the states says it's just a fine or minor offense.

  50. """That is why I feel that suppression of evidence is the ONLY reliable way to change police misconduct """

    I agree. If they want to offer a different approach it must pass the laugh test first, which Scalia's new professionalism idea didn't.

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