** Yet ANOTHER Blow Against the Fourth Amendment
- J.A.I.L. News Journal
Los Angeles, California January 26, 2002"It is exclusively the judicial branch of government in any country that throws its nation into internal upheaval and ultimate revolution." -Ron Branson, July, 2000"The germ of destruction of our nation is in the power
of the judiciary.." . - Thomas Jefferson, 1821"Find out just what people will submit to, and you have found the exact amount of injustice and wrongdoing which will be imposed on them; and these will continue until they are resistedwith either words or blows, or with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress." - Frederick Douglas, 1857Yet ANOTHER Blow Againstthe Fourth Amendment(This time by the California Supreme Court)Question: Did Chief Justice Ronald M. George, Justice Marvin Baxter, Justice Ming W. Chin, and Justice Carlos R. Moreno (a) violate the U.S. Constitution, and (b) if so, did they do it willfully?Judicial Accountability Initiative LawJustice Joyce Kennard [dissenting] said the ruling "does nothing to enhance our security and does much to erode our 4th Amendment rights."State Court Backs Police on Searches
Rights: Justices split sharply in 4-3 ruling allowing car inspections for license, registration.
January 25, 2002
By MAURA DOLAN, Times Legal Affairs Writer
SAN FRANCISCO -- Police in California may search cars if a driver fails to produce a license or registration regardless of whether the officer has a warrant, the state Supreme Court ruled Thursday.
The high court, in a 4-3 vote, sided in favor of law enforcement despite sharply worded dissents declaring that such searches violate the U.S. Constitution
Justice Joyce Kennard, one of the dissenters, suggested the ruling may have been motivated by security fears stemming from the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. "As this opinion is being written, our nation is undergoing a painful recovery from the devastating physical and psychological effects of that day," Kennard wrote. She said the ruling "does nothing to enhance our security and does much to erode our 4th Amendment rights."
California courts previously have allowed police making routine traffic stops to search for licenses and registrations in glove compartments and under visors. The Supreme Court's decision Thursday approves for the first time searches under the seats of cars and elsewhere when there is no reason to believe a crime has been committed, lawyers in the case said.
Other courts have also given police more freedom in dealing with motorists. The U.S. Supreme Court earlier this month reaffirmed that police have extensive leeway in determining when to stop motorists and that they may rely on innocent-looking actions as grounds for their suspicions.
The state high court's majority, in an opinion written by Chief Justice
Ronald M. George, reasoned that police can look for documents in a vehicle to determine the identity of the driver and the owner of the vehicle. The decision upheld two police searches in Orange and Solano counties in which drugs were found under car seats and the drivers were prosecuted for possession.
"Limited warrantless searches for required registration and identification documentation are permissible," George wrote, when the officers look for documents "in an area where such documents reasonably may be be expected to be found." George contended that allowing such searches would be less intrusive than arresting a motorist for driving without a license. He also noted that it would not be permissible to search a car trunk unless the officer had reason
to believe the documentation was in there.
Voting with George were Justices Marvin Baxter, Ming W. Chin and Justice Carlos R. Moreno, whom Gov. Gray Davis recently appointed to fill a vacancy left by the death of Justice Stanley Mosk in June. Mosk frequently sided with defendants in police search cases.[Gov. Davis is now running for a second term]
The U.S. Supreme Court has never ruled in a case involving the kind of circumstances before the California court, although some high courts in other states have upheld searches for vehicle registration.
The three dissenting justices sharply accused the majority of violating the U.S. Constitution by creating a "blanket" exception to warrant requirements. Justice Kathryn Mickle Werdegar said the majority erred in saying that the space beneath a driver's seat is a reasonable place to keep vehicle registration. She also noted that driver's licenses are not usually kept under a car's seat and contended the Constitution prohibits car searches for licenses.
"Nothing--not the Constitution, nor any statute nor the cases cited by the majority--authorizes police to conduct a warrantless vehicle search in an attempt to discover the license of a driver who asserts he or she does not have it in the car," Werdegar wrote. If a driver fails to produce a license, the officer can run the driver's name on a computer, ask the driver to submit a thumbprint, accept another
form of identification or arrest the driver, she said. "By what logic," she asked, "would a police officer believe that searching a vehicle for a person's driver's license would be fruitful when the driver has just informed the officer that he does not have a license in possession?"
Kennard, joined by Justice Janice Rogers Brown, discussed "the horrendous events of Sept. 11" and asked whether anyone would ever be able to forget them. Part of the recovery has been to create more security for citizens but "an equally important part" should be a "rededication to the principles upon which our nation was founded," Kennard wrote.
She predicted the ruling "may well result in limitless searches throughout a vehicle whenever a driver cannot produce the requisite documentation."
Thanks to Ron Loeber, Lt.JIC, NY JAIL, valortoo@...for sending us this article.
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