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Thursday, June 5, 2008

"License and Registra--" Not So Fast, Officer!

The South Dakota Supreme Court issued an interesting ruling today on your rights when the police pull you over. According to Chet Brokaw's AP report (which I paraphrase extensively here -- thanks, Chet!), a Sioux Falls cop improperly obtained evidence of illegal drug use when he detained Wade Dustin Hayen during a traffic stop even after he had determined that his original reason for stopping Hayen was not valid.

Check it out: the cop sees a temporary dealer's license on Hayen's new truck. The cop can't see the expiration date, so he pulls Hayen over. No problem. The cop walks up to the driver's window, asks Hayen for license and registration. Then the cop looks back and sees the temporary license is still valid.

Pow -- there's the violation. The South Dakota Supreme Court says the cop should have looked at the temporary vehicle license first, before even going to the driver's window and making that oh-so-familiar request. The moment the cop saw the dealer's license was still good, the stop should have been over. No questions, no look at the license, no running a check on the driver, not without "reasonable suspicion" of some other criminal activity.

The sucky part of this ruling is that the cop ran a check on Hayen's license and found an outstanding warrant for his arrest. When he cuffed Hayen and searched him, he found meth and drug paraphernalia. The cop caught a bad guy who needed to be put away. But the court found the cop didn't follow the rules, so the bad guy goes free. It's not pleasant, but it's the law. Sometimes the law lets the guilty slip away, but that's still the better error than unjustly taking away the liberty of the innocent.

1 comment:

  1. It's crazy how legal arguments can be made today.

    Like how a case can be dismissed against someone arrrested by the local police department because the incident took place outside the city limits and thus out of the officer's juristiction.


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