Hell Yes, I Mind!

Orin Kerr at the Volokh Conspiracy comments on an interesting 4th Amendment case, dealing with a police officer badgering a driver repeatedly for consent to search his vehicle.

After checking out his driver’s license, the officer asks the driver for consent to search the car:

That solicitation continued over a period of about a minute and included approximately six requests. The officer asked that many times because appellant would not commit one way or the other. Indeed, captured on the video of the event was the officer informing appellant that he was being asked a “yes or no” question. Furthermore, the last request propounded to appellant consisted of Williams asking: “Do you mind if I look?” To it, appellant answered “yes,” according to the officer. Upon so replying, appellant was ordered to exit the car.

There’s some interesting comments on this one, too:

“The repeated questions suggest the officer knew he was violating the individual’s civil rights…”

Which rights were those he was violating? The officer has the absolute authority to inquire further and ask for permission to search. It only becomes a 4A issue if the duration of the stop after the ticket is written becomes excessive (because then you are dealing with a seizure). In this case, the additional stop amounted to less than a minute, and the appellate court actually suggested that the officer, in good faith, misunderstood the nature of the plaintiff’s “yes” to mean “yes, you can look”, but went on to say that such speculation was meaningless since the consent had to be unequivocal, which obviously was not the case here.

The evidence was suppressed. The man was set free. Civil rights violations? You need to put things in perspective. Suppose instead of a baggie of grass, it was a bomb, or a machine gun, or evidence of a rape? The cop was doing what we all pay him/her to do.

Worth checking out.

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