Search and Seizure

SCOTUS Should Limit Cops' Dangerously Broad Power to Stop and Search Your Car


Two cases before the Supreme Court deal with the justification and consequences of traffic stops by police. In my lates Forbes column, I argue that the Court should take this opportunity to impose limits on cops' broad discretion to detain motorists and search their vehicles. Here is how the piece begins:

On the morning of April 15, 2013, two California poker players were traveling west on Interstate 80 in Iowa, on the way back from a tournament in Joliet, Illinois, when a state trooper pulled them over. By the time the traffic stop was over, police had seized $100,000 in poker winnings from the two men, on the assumption that the cash must be connected to drug trafficking or some other illegal activity.

In addition to the legalized theft that is civil asset forfeiture, the case illustrates the broad discretion that police have to hassle innocent people, a power magnified by loose rules concerning traffic stops and car searches. Two cases before the Supreme Court could help rein in that power.

Read the whole thing.

NEXT: Brickbat: To Protect and Serve

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  1. The North Carolina Supreme Court disagreed, finding that the stop was reasonable given “the totality of the circumstances.”

    I sometimes wonder if these lawyers in robes truly do not understand why limits are placed on state actions against citizens or they don’t care.

    1. Why should they care? It’s not like the lack of limits will affect the privileged class to which they belong.

      1. Which is why there’s going to be a backlash that will make the French Revolution look like a schoolyard fight.

        Invest in guillotines.

        1. I’m hoping there’s a lot of necklacing.

          1. Kill their families too. And not too quickly. Make them watch the festivities.

    2. Because they’re middle-management in the same company stealing the money?

  2. Yes, SCOTUS should go back to strictly enforcing the constitution. It won’t, but it should.

  3. Why do we continue to pretend the 4th amendment is still alive?

    If you’re thinking of joining the military, you really ought to ask yourself exactly what is it that you’re “defending”.

    Is this country really worth defending anymore?

    1. The country is. The government isn’t.

      1. As its always been.

    2. I wasted four years of my life “defending” a police state.

  4. Doesn’t matter. Courts can say whatever they want. Until the cops actually face some consequences for their actions, they’ll keep doing what they’re doing.


      1. 340 grains of Trepanizine will end it nicely.

  5. SCOTUS should do a lot things. They should get themselves some more colorful robes.
    But they won’t.

  6. Scalia — “Police deserve the the power due to professionalism they have displayed recently”

    Thomas — “Lock’em all up”

    Roberts — Too early to call. I think Roberts seems reasonable so far. Let’s see what he does here

    Kennedy — The voice of reason.

    Alito — I can see him supporting the Police

    Sotamyor — Ex DA and Prosecutor in NYC and Strong supporter of Strong-armed Policing. Had the police not targeted minorities as it does, She would had supported extending police power.

    Ginsberg — Go Ruth. I’m sure she’s against this.

    Hagan — Will also vote to limit police power.

    Breyer — Him and Ruth can be classified as “Let’m loose Bruce” types of lawyers.


    Let’s see.

  7. Any calls for limits on their power to stop us at random and seize what we have without cause is tantamount to calling for this country to be like Somalia where warlords and their armies stop villagers and take what they want without cause of consequence.

    Is that really what you want?

    1. At least people wouldn’t look at me like I was a monster if I decided to fight back against the Somalian warlords.

      1. Indeed. I always love how people praise the federal government’s expansion in the 20s vis-a-vis things like the national park and national forest system on the grounds that prior to the feds involvement, there were highwaymen stopping innocent travelers and stealing their belongings and people setting up tool booths and armed checkpoints to tax the goods moving down the roads.

        Then as I drive to my job, there are police cars parked on the side of the highway running radar, waiting for someone to slip up so they can swoop in and subject them to fines and possible confiscation of their property.

        Yep, I’m so glad we moved past the era of Highway Men and into the far more honest and noble era of the Highway Patrol.

  8. I love how the ad at the top of the page is suggesting I join Albuquerque Police Department. *facepalm*

    1. Either they want to appeal to those of us who desire to kill without consequences, OR they want us to join so we can fix things from the inside.

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