Supreme Court Expands Police Search Powers Again

Discussion in 'Marijuana Legalization' started by RMJL, May 29, 2004.

  1. Newsbrief: Supreme Court Expands Police Search Powers Again -- Cops Can Now Search Parked Cars Incident to Arrest


    In another contraction of Fourth Amendment protections against unwarranted searches and seizures, the Supreme Court ruled Monday that police can search a parked car for drugs, guns, or other criminal evidence while arresting "recent occupants." The court had previously upheld searches of vehicle interiors incident to the arrest of a driver or passenger, but now extends police search powers to include searches when the arrestee recently left the vehicle.

    The case, Thornton v. US, arose when a Norfolk, Virginia, police officer began following Marcus Thornton in traffic. The officer grew suspicious because the license plate registration did not match the vehicle, but Thornton parked his car and left the vehicle before the officer could pull him over. When confronted, Thornton consented to a pat-down search, and the officer found drugs in his pants pocket. After arresting Thornton and placing him in the police car, the officer then searched Thornton's vehicle and found a weapon. Thornton was tried and convicted on federal drug and gun charges.

    Thornton appealed, arguing that the reasons the court has allowed police officers to make vehicle searches incident to arrest -- for the safety of the officer and to prevent the destruction of evidence -- did not apply because Thornton was already safely in custody.

    But the Supreme Court wasn't buying that argument. In a 7-2 decision, the court held that "recent" occupants of a vehicle were essentially the same as current occupants of a vehicle. "In all relevant aspects, the arrest of a suspect who is next to a vehicle presents identical concerns regarding officer safety and the destruction of evidence as the arrest of one who is inside the vehicle," Chief Justice William Rehnquist wrote for the majority. An arrested suspect could still lunge inside the vehicle for a weapon, he wrote (although without explaining how a handcuffed arrestee in the back seat of a locked police car might pull that off). "It would make little sense to apply two different rules to what is, at bottom, the same situation," Rehnquist wrote.

    In his dissent, Justice John Paul Stevens wrote that the court's only real justification for allowing searches of parked vehicles incident to the arrest of "recent occupants" was to enable officers to search for evidence of crimes. "In my opinion, that goal must give way to the citizen's constitutionally-protected interest in privacy when there is already in place a well-defined rule limiting the permissible scope of a search of an arrested pedestrian," wrote Stevens. "The [Supreme Court] should provide the same protection to the 'recent occupant' of an automobile as it does to the recent occupant of a house."

    Writing for the majority, Rehnquist argued that the court needed to set a clear rule for police, but Stevens wrote that the Monday decision did nothing of the kind. Instead, Stevens predicted continuing litigation over what is a "recent occupant," and warned that the decision further eroded the Fourth Amendment. "I fear that today's decision will contribute to the massive broadening of 'the automobile exception,' where officers have the probable cause to arrest the person but not to search his car."

    Read the decision in Thornton v. United States online at
  2. Well all I have to say about this is "Fuck, fuck the cops, and fuck the U.S government, and fuck the politicans!'
  3. You know, for a section of the board that has to deal with laws and pot and such, i'm very disappointed to see that we've only one response, albeit a stretch to call it that.

    The Patriot Act and all this assorted trash that has/is being pushed through onto the books dealing with searches have done next to nothing for security when viewed with respect to one's personal privacy and protection from the government. Yes, protection, the government is not a benevolent creature and like all creatures, is strongly interested in self-preservation.

    Many are letting this slide, thinking it is bringing them safety. It is not. It is bringing your government safety. The safety of knowing more about you than you are aware of. What is this good for? Crushing dissenters. Plain and simple. Go ahead and work through the scenario in the future where something you do routinely, and feel that you must do (that is key to understanding the point), is made illegal. This is important because most people think, well, who cares if they take away my right to have my communications private, i've got nothing to hide.

    Well, here's the kicker, no, you don' this particular time. Think about that future where all of the sudden you *do* have something to hide, but in your mind it is *not* illegal. How would you put together and coordinate civil disobedience? Sure as hell not through any of those modes of communication that *you* let the government control. You sure as hell will have trouble because you could be searched at any time, for any reason because no one was outraged enough to speak up and let these people know that, no, this is not okay.

    No, it is *NOT* okay, nor a right to fumble about in someone vehicle, hoping to stumble on some hidden information. It is not okay and i'm surprised more of the people on this board aren't pissed about it.

    Well maybe you guys are. Let's hear it then. Write letters to your Congresspersons; let them know how you feel. If all they ever hear from is their fat-cat, thick-walleted friends, how do you expect much to change?

    And this "fuck the government shit"...please, that is not going to garner you any resources to apply to change. Get a law degree, be a judge, fuck the system from the inside. Read and practice civil disobedience. Vote (the gov isn't going away any time in your lifetime, you might as well work to change it in the few remaining ways you have available.).

    Sorry for the rambling.
  4. Complaining to congress would be like talking to a brick wall.

    They have their own agendas.

    These new "acts" are borderline unconstitutional, in fact, I would go to the point to say they are.

    Monitoring what we do on the internet and such gets even more iffy, because it's a major highway of communication with many security holes.
  5. This is so fucked.
  6. if you dont like the laws and cops where you live move somewhere that has good laws?

    no way if i would live in a country that could put me inside a jail if they caught me with a little bit of weed.

    what are they? communists?
  7. thats not right. They might as well get the right to search your house if youve been arrested.

    If i was like in someones house though, and they never saw me in the car even if it is my car, can they search it?
  8. Can somebody please tell me if The Constitution even matters anymore? When I look at the Constitution I see nothing more than a historical document. It seems like more of our rights are getting violated everyday. The 4th amendment particularly has taken a huge hit thanks to The Patriot act(which thankfully has a shot at expiring in 2005). Amazingly some amendments are broken without the general public even knowing. These are off of the top of my head:

    Amendment 8 is violated by Manditory Minimum Sentences. "Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted." MMS requires excessive fines, and can even be argued to be cruel and unusual punishment(shady)

    Amendment 10 says that the federal government may not overrule the States for a state given power, yet in many drug cases the Federal government overrules state laws and tries them on federal law.

    Amendment 13 has a chance at being broken with all the talks about reinstating the draft. "Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction." A draft sounds like involuntary servitude to me.

    Amendment 14 "...nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law" This is shadier but it can be argued that impounding your car before you are convicted(especially for drug reasons) is violating due process of law. If you are busted with drugs in your car they impound it before you even go to trial.

    Then of course there is potential censorship on the internet which is a clear violation of freedom of press and speech.

    Look, the point of this post is very simple. I am not surprised by the ruling of this case therefore am unable to make a proper reaction. I actually expected something like this to happen. The Constitution has lost it's value long ago.

    For the record here is the 4th amendment so you guys can read it and determine if searching a car violates it, which I of course believe it does:

    Amendment IV - Search and seizure. Ratified 12/15/1791.

    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.
  9. ^^^^^

    Exactly. It's easy to change the law to give more power to the police/government in increments, saying "This isn't so much worse than what the law already is". But then over time, you've completely lost the spirit of the amendment, or flat-out gone against it.

    I wish our Supreme Court would actually read the fucking Constitution instead of using their job to support the recent Republican Party trend of increasing government power in matters of invading privacy.

    If anyone here is planning on becoming a lawyer or a judge (myself, I'm planning on becoming a teacher), fight for all of us on the outside of the legal system!

    Until then, VOTE for people who will at least not exacerbate the invasions of privacy and bastardizations of the Bill of Rights. GET BUSH OUT OF OFFICE IN 2004. VOTE KERRY. VOTE DEMOCRAT. Get these fuckers who want to take away our rights out of positions of power. We can't do it to the Supreme Court, but we can do it to Congress and the White House.

    (Anyone who doesn't VOTE in November has no right to complain when these new laws come around to fuck them. Non-voters get no pity from me when they get busted for this shit.)
  10. I would rather we have neither bush nor kerry.

    Instead, we could let Canada or Holland take control of the US so we have more liberal laws.

    The system is already broke, and has been for a long time.

    We need a new one that actually works.

    I wonder if we can take the government to court for making these acts and doing what they are doing?
  11. We can take the government to court, just don't expect to win. Originally the courts were supposed to be the highest power but somewhere along the way the federal government took control. My best estimate is at the beginning of the 1900's.

  12. You want canada or holland to take over?!?! You can't even own a gun in canada!! America is founded on the idea of absolute freedom..a place where you could do whatever you wanted as long as it did not infringe upon anyone elses rights.

    Oh and unclescam states rights went on decline right after the civil war. I am not an advocate of slavery but the south did have one good reason for fighting that war. In fact the MAIN reason for fighting that war was not for slavery the war started because the north wanted to impose higher tarriffs on the south than the north. during the civil war lincoln suspended the right of habeaus corpus or the right to a fair and speedy trial. then again FDR didn't do us any favors either

    John kerry is a douche bag but I'm voting for him anyways
  13. This happened to my friend. He was just sitting in his car ( baked but not smoking ) in a parking lot and a cop came up and searched him. They took 2 bongs probably valued over $100 and various other goodies. He didn't even have weed.

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