Search and Seizure

Judge: Routine Traffic Stops No Grounds for X-Raying Cars

Cops thought any excuse was a good excuse

|

A motorist cannot have his car taken to a border station to be x-rayed based on a window tint violation, a federal judge ruled on Friday. US District Judge Richard J. Arcara allowed a lawsuit to proceed against the Niagara County, New York Sheriff's Department in the wake of an April 28, 2009 traffic stop where motorists who had done nothing wrong were detained by police for more than three hours.

Thaddeus Rougier was traveling to Canada with Beverly Henry in a 1995 Lexus carrying luggage and a ham. Deputy Ray Tracy stopped the Lexus, which was legally registered in Tennessee, within a half mile of the Lewiston-Queenston Bridge. New York state has a more restrictive 70 percent limit for window tinting, but Rougier's tint fell within Tennessee's 35 percent legal maximum.

Deputy C.S. Page began running a drug dog around the Lexus, so Rougier got out of the car and began using a camera to document what was going on. A deputy ripped the camera out of his hands. Deputies then ordered the passenger, Beverly Henry, to get out of the vehicle. Because it was cold, she asked for her jacket, which the officers searched before giving to her. Rougier was handcuffed and tossed in the back of a patrol car. Their luggage was removed from the trunk and searched on the side of the road, with the dog sniffing every item of clothing. No contraband was found.