SCOTUS, or the Supreme Court of the United States, is scheduled to hear a case discussing whether or not evidence gathered in an invalid stop should be allowed in court. The case comes out of North Carolina and involves an officer that conducted a traffic stop based on what he believed to be a violation of state law. Unfortunately for the officer, he got the law wrong.
The officer was under the belief that it was illegal to operate a vehicle in the state with a faulty brake light. He made a stop when he observed that only the left side brake light illuminated when the brakes were applied. During this stop he became suspicious and requested a search of the vehicle. The driver and passenger agreed to the search and the officer found illegal drugs within the car. This evidence led to criminal charges.
North Carolina’s high court held that the evidence could be permitted in court since the officer’s faulty belief of the law was “reasonable.” If the court had held that it was invalid, the evidence would likely not be allowed in court and the charges may have ultimately been dropped.
Critics are arguing that police officers need to be held accountable. According to a recent report in The Newspaper, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and American Civil Liberties Union have teamed up with the Cato Institute to file a brief requesting SCOTUS hold that a traffic stop is invalid if the cop makes the stop based on a law that does not exist.
This case is a prime example of the importance of hiring a criminal defense attorney when charged with a crime. Your lawyer will review the details of your case and make sure that the law was followed. Violations can lead to a reduction or even dismissal of charges.
Source: The Newspaper, “US Supreme Court To Rule On Cops Who Get Law Wrong,” August 4, 2014