In a travesty of justice that furthers the cause of police being able to do whatever they want, the Supreme Court has ruled that your 4th amendment rights don’t matter if the cops are ignorant.
In an 8-1 decision in the case of Heien v. North Carolina, SCOTUS ruled that a violation of the 4th amendment is perfectly acceptable if the violation results from a “reasonable mistake about the law” on the part of police.
What constitutes a reasonable mistake? Whatever the police say constitutes a reasonable mistake.
“Oh, I’m sorry, I wasn’t aware that you’re allowed to have an inspection sticker on your side window on cars with a polymer windshield when I pulled you over and illegally searched your private property.”
Or as the case before the court cited, an officer pulled a man over when a brake light flickered and then turned on, believing state law required two working lights, when in fact, it only requires one.
A police officer, not knowing the traffic laws he’s sent out to enforce, can now pull you over, say “oops I didn’t know” and then legally search your vehicle.
We lose our rights because cops need to learn the law? They’re cops. If they don’t know the law, they shouldn’t have a badge and a gun.
Justice Sonia Sotamayor, in a lone dissenting opinion, said the ruling:
…means further eroding the Fourth Amendment’s protection of civil liberties in a context where that protection has already been worn down.
The full amicus brief of the case can be read here.
Where does it stop? We’ve already seen that cops tend to shoot first and ask questions later if they “believe” a perpetrator has a weapon. They can use terms like “made a sudden move” or “appeared to be reaching for something” and they suffer no consequences.
Now they don’t even have to prove justification. They only need to prove they’re not qualified to do their job.