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The Eroding 4th Amendment

One of the cornerstones of the U.S. Constitution, the one we hear the most about is the 4th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. That is the one that says the people shall be free from unreasonable searches by the Government, ie., the people shall be secure in their persons, places, houses and effects and no warrant shall issue in the absence of probable cause. This critical legal right, conceived from our founding fathers of this great nation, has been the cornerstone of American jurisprudence and continues to be the bane of prosecutors nationwide Every single day in this country cases are thrown out court because evidence is offered by the Government that was not legally obtained. The same holds true in DUI arrests in Maryland and throughout the country.

In the context of DUI and DWI arrests, the police need to have a legal basis to stop a car. Before the cops have the opportunity to exaggerate their reports by using boilerplate language copied from one report to the next, they first have to dream up a legally recognizable basis to stop a car. Now, in all honesty, that isn’t too difficult to do. The cops can stop a car for practically any reason at all, something as minor as a burnt out license plate light. And if they don’t immediately see a basis to stop your car, they can even make one or force the issue. For example, they can come right up on your bumper and stay there until you speed up over the limit, or change lanes without a blinker, then they have a legal basis to stop you. It ain’t tough and cops know that!

Interestingly however, in North Carolina there was a recent case where the cops boldly didn’t even bother to make anything up, they admitted they had no legal basis to stop a woman’s car, and the Court of Appeals in Carolina supported this baseless stop under “community care.” Apparently the woman hit an animal in the road and kept on driving. The cops evidently saw this but could not put their finger on any bad driving, or driving violations. They didn’t even bother to use the time honored, ride the bumper until she does something illegal protocol; they just stopped her and then moved into phase two, cut and paste a report with the proper DUI buzzwords and the rest is history.

This conviction in the lower court which somehow was affirmed at the appellate court is scary. It is a complete erosion of the 4th amendment right against unreasonable searches and seizures. If the cops in North Carolina can stop this woman’s care for the stated no legal reason, the motorist in that great state have a lot of trouble coming. That means that law enforcement can then stop any car it wishes for a “community welfare” reason and then look for evidence of a crime. If no evidence of a crime is evident, they could then call for the dogs to do a quick sniff test of the car and it’s operators just to be sure.

This legal atrocity, accosting a driver with no basis, is the very reason that the framer’s of the Constitution drafted the 4th Amendment. It is the cornerstone of our freedoms in this country and the appellate court in North Carolina has just significantly eroded this protection. I hope and prey that the defense in this case will not abandon this case, but rather take it to the next appellate court and all the way to the Supreme Court of the U.S. if necessary. A legal injustice like this in North Carolina threatens the law and lawful citizens throughout the country as prosecutors will look to the law created here to support their BS positions and unlawful searches and seizures in other cases and other states. Bad law like to this can spread it’s ugly tentacles across state lines if not quickly eradicated by jurists that have an appropriate knowledge and respect for the bedrock law of this land.