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.