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SCOTUS says you are a suspect, on sight


Last Edited: January 29, 2009, 7:37 pm


Supreme court holds that passenger can be frisked.

Case Reference: Arizona v. Johnson

In another case testing the boundaries of Fourth Amendment jurisprudence, the Supreme Court ruled that a police officer may search a suspect during a routine traffic stop if she believes that suspect may be armed and dangerous but has no justifiable reason to believe that they are committing a crime.

After stopping a car for a routine traffic violation in April 2002, Tucson police officer Maria Trevizo said she decided to search passenger Lemon M. Johnson because he was wearing gang colors and appeared dangerous. [There are colors "reserved" for gangs? I'd better check my crayon box.]

The pat-down search produced a gun and marijuana, and Johnson was convicted in Pima County Superior Court. [There was a time when neither of these items were "ill-eagle". We are fast approaching the day when both will be.]

Johnson appealed, arguing that evidence against him should have been suppressed because the search was unconstitutional. The Arizona Court of Appeals agreed and overruled the lower court.

The Arizona Supreme Court declined to review the case.

The state urged the Supreme Court to review the case, contending that an officer who fears for his or her safety is justified in searching someone believed to be armed and dangerous even if the suspect isn’t committing a crime.

On June 23, the justices accepted the case for review. They heard oral arguments during the fall term.

On Jan. 26, a unanimous court overturned the lower court ruling, which found for the defendant.

“To justify a patdown of the driver or a passenger during a traffic stop… just as in the case of a pedestrian reasonably suspected of criminal activity [like ... walking], the police must harbor [or at least claim to] reasonable suspicion that the person subjected to the frisk is armed and dangerous,” Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote for the court.

Question presented: Whether, in the context of a vehicular stop for a minor traffic infraction, an officer may conduct a pat-down search of a passenger when the officer has an articulable basis to believe the passenger might be armed and presently dangerous, but had no reasonable grounds to believe that the passenger is committing, or has committed, a criminal offense. ["might be", as in "is it humanly possible", as in "all of us".]

No word yet on whether it is lawful to shoot someone in the back while they are restrained on the ground, or to follow such action with confiscating any citizen's recording devices that document said event.

Hmm, while they're at it, maybe they can search your wallet and take any money they [h a r b o r  reasonable suspicion to] believe is more than you should have on you. -- y'know, 'cause you 'look' poor.

Entry #198


Comment by GASMETERGUY - January 29, 2009, 8:19 pm
The "police" are already confiscating your cash. Florida State police have seized tons of money from people "suspected" of dealing in drugs. Even here in Tennessee a man was searched at the Nashville airpost ( this before 9/11). $50,000 was found in his possession. The airport police kept the money. Subsequent lawsuits upheld the actions of the police. The man has yet to reclaim his property.
The police are quickly turning into Storm Troopers with the full, almost eager, backing of our judical system and elected officials
Vote as if your life depended on it for it surely does.
jarasanComment by jarasan - January 29, 2009, 8:41 pm
The citizens out number the law enforcement community and the scotus, as long as the 2nd amendment is intact we have nothing to worry about...........................if they try to limit or repeal the big number 2 you will see a lot more than 2 million people on the mall.
TigerAngelComment by TigerAngel - January 29, 2009, 11:44 pm
While the sheeple sleep they are taking away our rights incrementally. I just watched a video online for free at www.documentarywire.com called "Never Get Busted Again". They went over the rules for the police but may have to change the video now. This really sucks!!
Video is great-------->>>> worth watching over and over again!! The authors have a new one out too, on their own website.
Thanx for the post there time*treat.
justxploringComment by justxploring - January 30, 2009, 12:40 am
I'm sure you know that by "colors" they mean gang identification. Some gang members are willing to kill for their colors. Of course I don't want to see our rights being eroded, but what would happen if someone was assaulted and it got out that an officer had just stopped the assailant for a traffic violation? Then everyone would be screaming that the cops don't do their jobs. "Didn't she suspect anything?" I don't know about you, but I wouldn't want to live in a city without police protection. Sure there are a lot of cowboys who bully people and abuse their power. I've written about this, since I am opposed to racial profiling and realize people are often judged by appearance (especially around here.) Still, if a professional is trained to identify suspects and feels there is something not quite kosher, I don't see why he or she can't take a few extra steps to the public's safety.   If the pat down produced a gun, then the officer was correct in her assessment of the situation. Don't you think we've bent over a little too much to protect the rights of hoodlums?
truecriticComment by truecritic - January 30, 2009, 5:12 am
It's funny, I always thought the Police were supposed to catch criminals? And a criminal would be someone that committed a crime. That would be AFTER they committed the crime. Not when a crime doesn't exist.
time*treatComment by time*treat - January 30, 2009, 9:55 am
@jxp: My issue is not the officer involved, it is with this ruling. The "hoodlums" I am most worried about rule and operate from D.C. - and I agree, they've been protected for too long. Maybe people like Sean Bell, Amadou Diallo, and others - well, they just weren't "kosher" enough. Since it turns out they were NOT armed, perhaps you could tell me if they're still dead?
Better to kill 10 innocents than let one guilty get away. Let G-d sort 'em out. Right?
konaneComment by konane - January 30, 2009, 10:09 am
Strange they enforce this on citizens ...... but "refrain" from it at airports when safety of large numbers of people are involved.

Agree with Jarasan about the second amendment, that right was granted in the Constitution and must be preserved regardless of liberal ninnies who whine otherwise.
justxploringComment by justxploring - January 30, 2009, 6:09 pm
time*treat, it's a tough call. I realize that I don't "look" guilty, whatever that means, so I have a slightly different attitude. Yes, it's a shame that the cops often discriminate against people of color or those who wear funky clothes or drive beat up cars. So I don't know where we need to draw the line. Many innocent people have been hurt because the police overreacted.   However, a lot of people have been victims of crime by repeat offenders because the law was too lenient.

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