Recent Broward Law Blog Features

Monday, January 26, 2009

Supreme Court OKs Passenger Frisks

The US Supreme Court has just ruled unanimously in a case which sustains the expanding rights of law enforcement officers. It has determined that a police officer who has a reasonable suspicion that a car passenger is armed and dangerous may conduct a pat-down search without violating the Fourth Amendment.

Writing for a unanimous court, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said police officers involved in lawful traffic stops need not have a belief that the passenger is involved in criminal activity before conducting a search. The frisk is permissible if the police "harbor reasonable suspicion that a person subjected to the frisk is armed, and therefore dangerous to the safety of the police and public," according to the opinion (PDF).
Defense attorneys had argued that the reasonable suspicion standard could support just about any pat-down and limit a citizen’s rights. The court thought otherwise. The Supreme Court, now apparently firmly titled to the conservative side when it comes to Fourth Amendment matters, has struck another blow against our constitution protections. This decision comes on the heels of one a week before, where the Supremes ruled that the exclusionary rule does not apply when the police accidentally violate your Fourth Amendment rights. Not a good thing. So all they have to do is say, 'Sorry, my bad' and your goose is cooked.

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