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The New Loophole That Lets Cops Stop You For (Literally) Anything

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Law enforcement now can pull motorists over and search their vehicles for almost any reason, thanks to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in December 2014 that has led to a rash of shocking police stops.

To make matters worse, under the case, Heien v. North Carolina, motorists can now be detained and searched even if the officer ended up being wrong about the law, The Marshall Project reported. The Project is keeping a running tally of the most outrageous stops upheld by the courts.

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Under Heien, an officer can search a car even if he was wrong about the law if the court determines he made a “reasonable” legal mistake. It’s a huge loophole that allows police to make huge mistakes on the job, provided they had good intentions.

Off The Grid News reported on the case in December.

Some of the more troubling stops that have been decided in court since Heien include:

Being stopped for a legal trailer hitch. Jose Gaytan was stopped and searched near Chenoa, Illinois. because of a large ball-type trailer hitch, which officers claimed violated the state’s vehicle code because it obscured the license plate. But the law allows such trailer hitches, a lower court judge and the Illinois Supreme Court ruled. “The only thing it’s obstructing is the little thing at the bottom that says Land of Lincoln or whatever,” the trial court judge noted. But even though courts said the officer was wrong about the law, they ruled that the mistake by the cop was “reasonable” and upheld drug charges against Gaytan.

Being stopped for legally entering the intersection on a yellow light. Robert Alan Wilson was driving a Chevrolet Malibu in Kansas City when the traffic light turned yellow. He entered the intersection and turned left, and was pulled over by a police officer. His action was legal, as the court of appeals noted: “We agree that simply entering an intersection on a yellow light is not — in and of itself — a legitimate basis for a traffic stop.” But because the officer found drugs and because he thought Wilson could have stopped prior to the intersection, the stop was perfectly legal.

Being stopped for legal air freshener. Richard Houghton Jr. was pulled over in East Troy, Wisconsin, because a police officer noticed that he had no front license plate on his car and an air freshener hanging from his rear view mirror. It was perfectly legal for Houghton not to have a front license plate and to use an air freshener (the cop argued it obstructed the driver’s view), yet the Wisconsin State Supreme Court upheld his conviction on drug possession charges. During the stop the officer found marijuana in Houghton’s car.

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Nor is it just motorists who have to worry about being stopped. On June 5, the San Diego County Superior Court’s Appellate Division ruled that it was admissible for police to stop Felipe Campuzano simply for riding a bicycle on the sidewalk at a slow speed. The municipal code the officers were enforcing bans riding on the sidewalk in front of commercial businesses. Campuzano was riding in front of an empty store. The court had initially thrown out a drug case against Campuzano but reinstated it after the Supreme Court’s Heien decision.

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Some are warning of a double standard, the Marshall Project noted: The public is expected to know the law, while police officers can get away with being ignorant of it.

The new legal precedent has its critics within the judicial realm.

“As soon as you get into your car, even before you turn the ignition key, you have subjected yourself to intense police scrutiny. So dense is the modern web of motor vehicle regulations that every motorist is likely to get caught in it every time he drives to the grocery store,” wrote D. Arthur Kelsey, then a judge on Virginia’s Court of Criminal Appeals and now a Virginia Supreme Court justice. Kelsey made the comments in a dissent.

Kelsey expressed concern that under the new precedent, all it takes is an officer to use “magic words such as ‘I thought … I believed … I mistakenly believed … I suspected … I mistakenly suspected” to give a court a ‘reasonable’ explanation for the wrong traffic stop.

What do you think about the new precedent? Should a conviction stand if the officer was mistaken about the law? Share your thoughts in the section below:

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  1. You must remember that the courts are part of government, and government rules by force.
    Next question?

  2. The U.S. of Everything Is Rigged, Illegal (or pending)

  3. Hmmm

    To prove that the Supreme Court is dead wrong here takes all of about 15 seconds that it takes to read the fourth Amendment to the Constitution. A document by the way which these so called judges have sworn to uphold. Clearly the “Supreme” Court has decided that it bypass the Constitution and our civil rights at will.

    Pay particular attention to the fact that the 4th amendment allows NO EXCEPTIONS!

    “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.”

    No warrant no search period. Anything else is flat out unconstitutional and therefore unlawful on its face. The purpose of the 4th amendment was precisely to prevent these types of government intrusions because as history shows us, there is no way to stop the government from terrorizing the citizens with searches without a mechanism like warrants. Naturally the justices are well aware of this fact and the of course the 4th amendment. This is grounds for impeachment.

    • Excellent answer!

      “Naturally the justices are well aware of this fact and the of course the 4th amendment. This is grounds for impeachment.”

      Okay, here is where you went “off curse” a bit, but it is forgivable since this has been incorrectly told to everyone for decades.

      These judges need a (real) Grand Jury Investigation and any group of American (not obama illegals) citizen group can be sworn in, this would be the appropriate Oath:

      “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God.”

      Investigate all and any unlawful action done by these judges. Document. Remember that the US Constitution, Article III, Section 1: “The judicial Power of the United States shall be vested in one supreme Court, and in such inferior Courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish. The Judges, both of the supreme and inferior Courts, shall hold their Offices during good Behaviour, and shall, at stated Times, receive for their Services a Compensation, which shall not be diminished during their Continuance in Office.”

      Justice Antonin Scalia: “Thus, citizens have the unbridled right to empanel their own grand juries and present “True Bills” of indictment to a court, which is then required to commence a criminal proceeding. Our Founding Fathers presciently thereby created a “buffer” the people may rely upon for justice, when public officials, including judges, criminally violate the law.” (Good Behaviour” tenure) *Justice Antonin Scalia writing for the majority said In the Supreme Court case of United States v. Williams, 112 S.Ct. 1735, 504 U.S. 36, 118 L.Ed.2d 352 (1992)

      *“The grand jury is mentioned in the Bill of Rights, but not in the body of the Constitution. It has not been textually assigned, therefore, to any of the branches described in the first three Articles. It is a constitutional fixture in its own right. In fact the whole theory of its function is that it belongs to no branch of the institutional government, serving as a kind of buffer or referee between the Government and the people”.

      “Thus, citizens have the unbridled right to empanel their own grand juries and present “True Bills” of indictment to a court, which is then required to commence a criminal proceeding. Our Founding Fathers presciently thereby created a “buffer” the people may rely upon for justice, when public officials, including judges, criminally violate the law.” (Misbehavior, “Good Behaviour” requirement)

      “The grand jury is an institution separate from the courts, over whose functioning the courts do not preside, we think it clear that, as a general matter at least, no such “supervisory” judicial authority exists. The “common law” of the Fifth Amendment demands a traditional functioning grand jury.”

      “Although the grand jury normally operates, of course, in the courthouse and under judicial auspices, its institutional relationship with the judicial branch has traditionally been, so to speak, at arm’s length. Judges’ direct involvement in the functioning of the grand jury has generally been confined to the constitutive one of calling the grand jurors together and administering their oaths of office. The grand jury’s functional independence from the judicial branch is evident both in the scope of its power to investigate criminal wrongdoing, and in the manner in which that power is exercised.”

      “The grand jury ‘can investigate merely on suspicion that the law is being violated, or even because it wants assurance that it is not.’ It need not identify the offender it suspects, or even “the precise nature of the offense” it is investigating. The grand jury requires no authorization from its constituting court to initiate an investigation, nor does the prosecutor require leave of court to seek a grand jury indictment. And in its day-to-day functioning, the grand jury generally operates without the interference of a presiding judge. It swears in its own witnesses and deliberates in total secrecy.”

      “Recognizing this tradition of independence, we have said the 5th Amendment’s constitutional guarantee presupposes an investigative body ‘acting independently of either prosecuting attorney or judge”

      “Given the grand jury’s operational separateness from its constituting court, it should come as no surprise that we have been reluctant to invoke the judicial supervisory power as a basis for prescribing modes of grand jury procedure. Over the years, we have received many requests to exercise supervision over the grand jury’s evidence-taking process, but we have refused them all. “it would run counter to the whole history of the grand jury institution” to permit an indictment to be challenged “on the ground that there was incompetent or inadequate evidence before the grand jury.” Justice Antonin Scalia writing for the majority said In the Supreme Court case of United States v. Williams, 112 S.Ct. 1735, 504 U.S. 36, 118 L.Ed.2d 352 (1992)

      The US Constitution assigns what all judges, state and federal, must do to be allowed to stay in a judicial position, they are:
      – Required to take, and keep an Oath(s), or a combined Oath.
      – Required to “support and defend” the US Constitution and all that is in Pursuance thereof it before the duties of the office they occupy.
      – Required to carry out the enumerated duties assigned to the judicial branch by the US Constitution, and/or state Constitution, in a constitutional manner.

      That is “Good Behaviour” for judges.

      You do not have to wait for an impeachment that may never come, use the people’s tool assigned only to them by the US Constitution – Grand jury Investigations and a Grand Jury Trial.

      James Madison, Federalist 39, 250—53:

      “According to the provisions of most of the constitutions, again, as well as according to the most respectable and received opinions on the subject, the members of the judiciary department are to retain their offices by the firm tenure of good behaviour.”

  4. Kevin Japanangka

    I don’t care what they THINK they can do! ANYONE who forcefully prevents ANYONE going about their daily business or affairs, has committed RAPE. The World Court has agreed this is the case, and Genocide has been recatagorised as, “Removal from your lifestyle, with NO chance of recovery”.
    Get over yourselves and tell the cops to take a hike, ok????

  5. This was done to boost revenue. I read recently a law review article that suggested the legal system was in trouble unless they took steps. These are those steps. Just because they say it doesnt make it so. Remember, martyrs get into heaven.

  6. I think you’d better leave your drugs at home if you plan on driving.

    • Amen to that. While the ability to stop someone for basically no justifiable cause is indeed troublesome, I think perhaps we need better examples of outrageous stops than “the poor innocent man was stopped for doing absolutely NOTHING wrong, except possessiing an illegal substance.”

  7. it gets worse. they can steal your cash on suspicion of being from an illegal source. ie drugs
    good luck getting it back too. sometimes they will settle for a portion of the money in court, but usually it’s not worth your time. welcome to America land of the new nazis

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