What lawyers know (5)

This week, in Heien v. North Carolina, the United States Supreme Court held that evidence discovered by a police officer during a search of an automobile can be admissible as evidence during a later trial even when the police officer’s initial reason for the traffic stop was based on an incorrect understanding of the law.  The Court did note, however, that the officer’s error must be “reasonable.”  In this case, the officer made the initial stop because the car in which the defendant was riding had a faulty brake light.  No North Carolina law made this condition illegal, but the officer believed that such a law did exist.  The car’s occupants gave the officer permission to search the car, and the officer found a bag of cocaine belonging to the defendant, who was subsequently convicted on a charge of attempted drug trafficking.  This ruling extends a long line of Supreme Court cases giving more deference to police when they conduct searches after a traffic stop.

About Steve

I earned a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from the University of Alabama in the early 1980s. After that experience, I worked as a stockbroker for a few years, then earned a J.D. from the University of Alabama School of Law and practiced law for more than twenty years. As a litigator, I did everything from capital murder defense to securities class actions.  Now I've retnrned to my original interests. My first novel, Cold Winter Rain, will be available late in 2012.
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