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Thread: Supreme Court rules an officer’s misunderstanding of a law is protected

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    Regular Member Freedom1Man's Avatar
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    Supreme Court rules an officer’s misunderstanding of a law is protected

    http://benswann.com/supreme-court-ru...-is-protected/
    The case was brought up to a North Carolina appeals court who, according to VOX, agreed the stop was unlawful. The case was then heard by the state’s highest court and the Supreme Court, who both ruled in favor of the officer, saying even if the officer does not know the technical aspects of a law, a search and seizure is still constitutional.
    Now while this was a traffic case the implications for open carriers is horrible.
    Provision for free medical attendance and nursing, for clothing, for food, for housing, for the education of children, and a hundred other matters, might with equal propriety be proposed as tending to relieve the employee of mental strain and worry. --- These matters obviously lie outside the orbit of congressional power. (Railroad Retirement Board v Alton Railroad)

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    Regular Member Fallschirmjäger's Avatar
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    Heartily agreed, I can hear it now...

    "Your Honor, I swear I thought walking around in a hoodie in broad daylight was against the law. I'm sure my finding contraband in the defendant's pockets will be upheld, right?"

    "Your Honor, my training and experience indicated that anyone with a Glock pistol was likely to be carrying a Glock 18 which is a regulated NFA item, I'm sure my otherwise suspicionless stop of Mr Pedestrian will be found to be proper."

    "Your Honor, I realize that I had no training in recognizing the odor of cannabis and it's now apparent that what I thought was cannabis was actually vanilla extract, but I think the 'protective sweep' of the defendant's car which produced _______ should be allowed to stand."

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    Regular Member twoskinsonemanns's Avatar
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    This is nearly beyond belief. F************k you CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS!
    Your actions in that robe have been treasonous you sell out.
    "I support the ban on assault weapons" - Donald Trump

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    To be fair, the court has ruled that the officer's misunderstanding of law has to be "reasonable" in order for the exemption to apply.

    From the ruling:

    Quote Originally Posted by US Supreme Court
    The Fourth Amendment requires government officials to act reasonably, not perfectly, and gives those officials “fair leeway for enforcing the law,” Brinegar v. United States, 338 U. S. 160, 176. Searches and seizures based on mistakes of fact may be reasonable. See, e.g., Illinois v. Rodriguez, 497 U. S. 177, 183–186. The limiting factor is that “the mistakes must be those of reasonable men.”
    And given the precedence cases cited going back 200+ years, this is hardly a brand new creation of the Roberts' court.

    All of Fallschirmjäger's examples would fall outside this exception.

    Now, the kicker will be to see if anyone can get a similar "reasonable man" argument to apply to enforcement of laws against us common folks. Frankly, I'd be thrilled if this precedence were extended to all of us. Unintentional violation of obscure and illogical laws would no longer be grounds to impose penalties on decent citizens.

    Frankly, we should be thrilled with a ruling that holds to original intent even in unpopular cases like these. It bolsters the odds of the original intent of the 2nd amendment being upheld in additional future cases no matter how unpopular those decisions may be in some quarters.

    Charles

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    So, how many times will officers from the same jurisdiction "claim" ignorance/misunderstanding of the law before they lose this allowance?
    RIGHTS don't exist without RESPONSIBILITY!
    If one is not willing to stand for his rights, he doesn't have any Rights.
    I will strive to stand for the rights of ANY person, even those folks with whom I disagree!
    As said by SVG--- "I am not anti-COP, I am PRO-Citizen" and I'll add, PRO-Constitution.
    If the above makes me a RADICAL or EXTREME--- So be it!

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    Quote Originally Posted by JTHunter View Post
    How often have we heard that "Ignorance of the law is no excuse." ??
    Why are certain "people" given a pass and others aren't?
    We've always given a pass for certain, honest mistakes in the law. It is only fairly recently that large numbers of laws have been written so as to remove any need for knowingly violating them in order for there to be a crime.

    Go read the decision or at least the summary. It appears there is 200+ years of precedence in terms of allowing minimal, honest, "reasonable" mistakes on the part of cops making searches in good faith. Did you want the court to be activist and ignore the precedence and original intent of the constitution?

    The better place to direct our efforts is to correct the unreasonable burden placed on citizens. Any decent man inherently knows that assault, murder, rape, robbery (by force, stealth, or fraud), and the like are criminal. We require education so that drivers understand laws requiring us to drive on the right side of the road, when to yield the right-of-way, and other such rules that cannot be discerned by decency or conscience. There are large pubic education campaigns such that nobody can claim ignorance of drug laws. But maybe we ought to require some evidence of intent and knowledge before imposing criminal sanctions on a man for stepping on some endangered dirt, digging a ditch on his own land, or modifying a firearm in some way that seems useful and without any ill intent.

    Charles

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    Campaign Veteran skidmark's Avatar
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    SCOTUS never said anything about an an officer's misunderstanding of the law being "protected"!

    Saying that is just trying to stir the pot.

    It's not "protected"! It's also not unconstitutional. Big difference there.

    I don't agree with the decision. As far as I'm concerned the search and everything it turned up was fruit of the poisoned tree.

    But then consent was given to search the car. A magistrate may not have accepted "acting suspiciously" as sufficient to qualify as probable cause and denied the request for a warrant. But we'll never know, because consent was given.

    Perhaps ther is a lesson there?

    stay safe.
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    Moderator / Administrator Grapeshot's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by skidmark View Post
    SCOTUS never said anything about an an officer's misunderstanding of the law being "protected"!

    Saying that is just trying to stir the pot.

    It's not "protected"! It's also not unconstitutional. Big difference there.

    I don't agree with the decision. As far as I'm concerned the search and everything it turned up was fruit of the poisoned tree.

    But then consent was given to search the car. A magistrate may not have accepted "acting suspiciously" as sufficient to qualify as probable cause and denied the request for a warrant. But we'll never know, because consent was given.

    Perhaps ther is a lesson there?

    stay safe.
    As a gentleman known to many of us in VA and who makes a practice of going before the bar has said, "Keep you big mouth shut." (KYBMS)
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    Regular Member stealthyeliminator's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by utbagpiper View Post
    To be fair, the court has ruled that the officer's misunderstanding of law has to be "reasonable" in order for the exemption to apply.
    ...
    Is that supposed to be of consolation? I personally don't see how it is.
    Advocate freedom please

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    Regular Member twoskinsonemanns's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by utbagpiper View Post
    All of Fallschirmjäger's examples would fall outside this exception.
    What do you base this on? Your personal definition of reasonable?

    Quote Originally Posted by stealthyeliminator View Post
    Is that supposed to be of consolation? I personally don't see how it is.
    What, don't you feel all warm and fuzzy knowing this egregious insult to justice is tempered by allowing only reasonable violations of people's rights based on cops not knowing the law?
    Last edited by twoskinsonemanns; 12-22-2014 at 07:55 AM.
    "I support the ban on assault weapons" - Donald Trump

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    Regular Member OC for ME's Avatar
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    Exclamation Not all is as it seems

    NC Statute - § 20-129. Required lighting equipment of vehicles.

    (d) Rear Lamps. – Every motor vehicle, and every trailer or semitrailer attached to a motor vehicle and every vehicle which is being drawn at the end of a combination of vehicles, shall have all originally equipped rear lamps or the equivalent in good working order, which lamps shall exhibit a red light plainly visible under normal atmospheric conditions from a distance of 500 feet to the rear of such vehicle.

    (g) No person shall sell or operate on the highways of the State any motor vehicle, motorcycle or motor-driven cycle, manufactured after December 31, 1955, unless it shall be equipped with a stop lamp on the rear of the vehicle. The stop lamp shall display a red or amber light visible from a distance of not less than 100 feet to the rear in normal sunlight, and shall be actuated upon application of the service (foot) brake. The stop lamp may be incorporated into a unit with one or more other rear lamps.

    http://www.ncga.state.nc.us/EnactedL.../GS_20-129.pdf
    I disagree with the decision in principal because reasonableness will be determined after harm is done to the citizen. The precedent is now set in rapidly drying concrete.

    The cop knows the law and it is not confusing.
    "I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than to those attending too small a degree of it." - Thomas Jefferson.

    "Better that ten guilty persons escape, than that one innocent suffer" - English jurist William Blackstone.
    It is AFAIK original to me. Compromise is failure on the installment plan, particularly when dealing with so intractable an opponent as ignorance. - Nightmare

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    I think there should be a well defined difference between working "in good faith" and ignorance of any law LEO's are attempting to enforce. Good faith is working on mistaken information or misinformation (caller calls and says something that is not true, etc). When there is no/little accountability, mistakes seems to run rampant in any field or employment.

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    Quote Originally Posted by willy1094 View Post
    [ ... ] When there is no/little accountability, mistakes seems to run rampant in any field or employment.
    Just so.
    I am responsible for my writing, not your understanding of it.

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    Moderator / Administrator Grapeshot's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nightmare View Post
    Just so.
    But not just.
    You will not rise to the occasion; you will fall back on your level of training.” Archilochus, 650 BC

    Old and treacherous will beat young and skilled every time. Yata hey.

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    Regular Member OC for ME's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by willy1094 View Post
    I think there should be a well defined difference between working "in good faith" and ignorance of any law LEO's are attempting to enforce. Good faith is working on mistaken information or misinformation (caller calls and says something that is not true, etc). When there is no/little accountability, mistakes seems to run rampant in any field or employment.
    It seems to me that there is no difference between "in good faith" and "ignorance of the law." There is ample evidence of this fact here on OCDO.

    "I thought OC was unlawful" says the cop getting sued because he jacked up a OCer under a "misunderstanding" of the law.
    "I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than to those attending too small a degree of it." - Thomas Jefferson.

    "Better that ten guilty persons escape, than that one innocent suffer" - English jurist William Blackstone.
    It is AFAIK original to me. Compromise is failure on the installment plan, particularly when dealing with so intractable an opponent as ignorance. - Nightmare

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    Quote Originally Posted by OC for ME View Post
    It seems to me that there is no difference between "in good faith" and "ignorance of the law." There is ample evidence of this fact here on OCDO.

    "I thought OC was unlawful" says the cop getting sued because he jacked up a OCer under a "misunderstanding" of the law.
    I do see a significant difference between a mistake in enforcing a law/regulation related to the traffic code and that of laws related to or impacting what I believe to be a fundamental right "to keep and bear arms that shall not be infringed"! Will the Courts see this same difference?
    RIGHTS don't exist without RESPONSIBILITY!
    If one is not willing to stand for his rights, he doesn't have any Rights.
    I will strive to stand for the rights of ANY person, even those folks with whom I disagree!
    As said by SVG--- "I am not anti-COP, I am PRO-Citizen" and I'll add, PRO-Constitution.
    If the above makes me a RADICAL or EXTREME--- So be it!

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    2nd amendment says.... "...The right of the people to keep and bear arms SHALL NOT BE INFRINGED!"

  18. #18
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    Sooo if we misread a SCOTUS opinion then we're alllll good?

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    Quote Originally Posted by twoskinsonemanns View Post
    What do you base this on? Your personal definition of reasonable?
    Not my personal definition, but rather my best understanding of what is likely to pass the "reasonable man" test in court. Even a cursory understanding of what the "reasonable man" test is, eliminates from serious consideration any and all reductio ad absurdum examples.

    Which is not to say that the ruling doesn't leave the door open to plenty of potential injustices. Nor should anyone confuse my attempt to clarify what the ruling really says as me necessarily being a fan of the ruling. I just think it better to accurately understand a ruling than to operate from a position of misunderstanding.

    As a fan of strict construction and original intent of the constitution (including the 2nd amendment), it is notable that the court is correct that the 4th amendment does not protect against every imperfect search, but only against "unreasonable" searches. Perfection is not a reasonable standard to require of anyone. That too many laws require it of private citizens is the problem, not that the courts do not require perfection from cops.

    Charles

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    Quote Originally Posted by JoeSparky View Post
    I do see a significant difference between a mistake in enforcing a law/regulation related to the traffic code and that of laws related to or impacting what I believe to be a fundamental right "to keep and bear arms that shall not be infringed"! Will the Courts see this same difference?
    A very good point.

    Any limitation of fundamental rights require strict scrutiny, or the highest standard of justification.

    Mere privileges might fall into a "rational basis" test or the lowest level of justification.

    Charles

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    Quote Originally Posted by utbagpiper View Post
    A very good point.

    Any limitation of fundamental rights require strict scrutiny, or the highest standard of justification.

    Mere privileges might fall into a "rational basis" test or the lowest level of justification.

    Charles
    I would say that a right cannot be subject to any regulation because any regulation would then make it a privilege.

    Rights ARE absolute. Rights cannot be voted on by ANY gov't official .. member of legislative, executive, or judicial branch.

    My thinking on what a right is and is not.
    Last edited by davidmcbeth; 12-25-2014 at 11:34 PM.

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    Regular Member Logan 5's Avatar
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    What value is a mere opinion? I think it's a case by case issue, not widespread.
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    Regular Member OC for ME's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JoeSparky View Post
    I do see a significant difference between a mistake in enforcing a law/regulation related to the traffic code and that of laws related to or impacting what I believe to be a fundamental right "to keep and bear arms that shall not be infringed"! Will the Courts see this same difference?
    That is not what the opinion (the OP) addresses. In fact the cop had it right from the gitgo and the defense cherry picked the cited statute in a attempt to persuade the court...it failed to persuade and the court flat out screwed the pooch by verbalizing that a cop can misunderstand a law, act on his misunderstanding, and then not be held to account for his idiocy, his obvious idiocy in most cases.

    It is never reasonable to detain or arrest a citizen anytime anywhere to see if he has violated the law. If a cop "don't see it" then the cop needs to tread very carefully. In fact the cop should not act at all in the vast majority of instances. We have many many examples here on OCDO where cops take the word of a one citizen to the detriment of another..sometimes with deadly results. The/A "reasonable test" must be applied to the state only.

    Anyone who believes that the cops learn from their mistakes is viewing LE from behind rose colored glasses.
    "I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than to those attending too small a degree of it." - Thomas Jefferson.

    "Better that ten guilty persons escape, than that one innocent suffer" - English jurist William Blackstone.
    It is AFAIK original to me. Compromise is failure on the installment plan, particularly when dealing with so intractable an opponent as ignorance. - Nightmare

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    Quote Originally Posted by davidmcbeth View Post
    I would say that a right cannot be subject to any regulation because any regulation would then make it a privilege.

    Rights ARE absolute. Rights cannot be voted on by ANY gov't official .. member of legislative, executive, or judicial branch.

    My thinking on what a right is and is not.
    I believe you are in a very small minority with that thinking.

    Charles

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    Regular Member twoskinsonemanns's Avatar
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    Your right about that. The people with the guns decided what rights you can and can't have. Period.
    "I support the ban on assault weapons" - Donald Trump

    We are fast approaching the stage of the ultimate inversion: the stage where the government is free to do anything it pleases, while the citizens may act only by permission - Ayn Rand

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