From a "knowledgeable friend" in Montana:
Since I don't know Louisiana laws, it's difficult to comment
specifically on this case, or what latitude LEOs may have in Louisiana.
They have some odd state laws that began not with English common law but
with the Napoleonic Code. Under the federal /Terry/ standard and
subsequent redefining case law, an LEO may not disarm a citizen unless
he can specifically articulate reasonable suspicion (not probable cause
- a lesser bar than probable cause) that the person is an imminent
threat to themselves, another person, or the officer. And, although the
LEOs were certainly fixing to disarm this citizen, but they didn't actually.
He should consult a local civil rights attorney (specifically an
attorney who specializes in civil rights or maybe criminal defense) who
knows Louisiana law. The attorney will probably tell him that since he
was only inconvenienced and was not cited, arrested or assaulted it's
not worth pursuing in a legal way. So, there's probably no affordable
mechanism of litigation to correct the bad behavior of the LEOs.
In that case, if the guy wishes to follow up on this, he needs to take
it up with the entity that controls the budget for the LEOs. In Montana
that would be the Legislature for the State Trooper and the local county
commissioners for the sheriffs deputy.
This guy now has the motivation to learn more about how to assert his
rights. He should have declined the initial search, as he did later.
Plus, he should have asked earlier if he was free to go or under arrest.
However, if a citizen properly asserts rights in the face of bullying
police, he's likely to find himself arrested. Then, numerous charges
will be filed to justify the arrest, including but not limited to
obstructing a police officer, resisting arrest, making false statements,
and more. The purpose of the multiple charges is to make the encounter
painful and expensive for the citizen, to improve the chances that one
of the charges will stick, and to leverage the citizen into a plea
bargain where the citizen pleads guilty to something to make the rest go
away. This is the risk a person runs when standing up for his or her
rights in the face of badge-heavy police. And, Louisiana has earned a
reputation as having badge-heavy police.
BTW, the LEO's check of the citizen's plate will have been recorded, so
whether or not a "mistake" was made by the LEO can be verified.
However, if the LEO was lying about the mistake, such recordings have a
way of getting lost.
HAPPEN IN LA
realize this is not a legal advice type site, however, I figure that the regulars on here could at least tell me if could perhaps have a case and if I might pursue this.
I have broken this down to 3 parts because it is long. The stop, the violation, and the resolution. If you want to skip to the meat, then see part two. Also I wanted to write out all the details of this while they are still very fresh on my mind. Also this post is long because I don’t know what details are important or not.
Sept 29th, 2009. 630pm, Slidell, La, north Hwy 11 near I-12.
1. the stop
I am mentioning this due to the very odd circumstances under which I was pulled over. It may or may not be pertinent to the case.
I was traveling home from work on I-12 east about 6:20pm, I pass a state trooper stopped on the side around the Lacombe exit and noticed that he came onto the interstate behind me, following a half mile back. Over the next mile I watched to see if he was coming to pull me over, but he was lagging too far back. About 5 miles ahead I took the hwy 11 exit. At this point the trooper was very close behind me as we go down the ramp. At the bottom of the ramp I stopped at the light to make a left turn, and he proceeded to the right onto south hwy11. While waiting at the light, I see the same trooper (at least I think it’s the same) pass in front of me now heading north. once the light changed and I made the left, the trooper was on the side of the road under the interstate. As I passed him he pulled out onto Hwy 11 and turned on his lights. I pulled over just 200 yards ahead turned off the engine. The trooper very quickly opened his door and stepped out, from his door of his car ordered me out of the Jeep.
2. the search violation
as soon as I was at the back of my Jeep the officer informed me that the reason he stopped me was because "when I ran your plates, they came back expired in January, but I can see the sticker on the plate says November". With a bit closer look we both could see that the tiny renewal sticker had my same plate numbers matching my plates and has NOV in lager letters. At this point the officer asked for my drivers license and if I had any weapons, guns or knifes. I said "yes I have 2 knifes on me and a gun in the vehicle" first thing he had me do was turn and face his car, hands on the hood, and did a quick pat down removing one knife from its belt holder and a pat down of my left front pocket. I told him it was a small "grand-daddy pocket knife" and he didn’t reach into my pocket for it. At this point he asked where in the vehicle my gun was. I told him it is in a gun case behind the drivers seat. (original case from the store with the clips, holster, and easy loader) in the same location is a ammo box and targets rolled up from my last trip to the range. He asked if the case was locked, "no" and asked if the gun was loaded, "yes". He moved me to a position in front of his car dash cam (I assume that was why he moved me) before he went to my Jeep. he opened the drivers door, hit the door unlock switch, and opened the back door, and returned to his hood with the case. When he opened the case, to his dismay and my terrible surprise, the gun was not there! "I must have it in my glove box." I said. He walked up the passenger side of my Jeep and opened that door. He asked me from there "how do you open this", in this time some papers and trash fell out onto the ground and he had to stop to pick them up and put them back in. This moment gave me the presence of mind to think of my rights, he should have not opened that door, I knew that trash (coke cans and old bills) would fall out. He was perturbed and began walking back. The key to the glove box was in my pocket. I said "the glove box is locked?, well then the gun is definitely in there." He asked for me to give him my keys. At this time I said "I do not consent to any search of my vehicle." I don’t remember at this point if he asked me anything else before he radio for back-up, but within a minute he stepped to the back of his car and made a 2-3 minute cell phone call. He returned to me, asking several "stall questions". "where you coming from, where you going", ect.
At this point had my rights been violated? did he need to ask permission even before going in my backseat to get the gun case? had I given him any probable cause? NO! had I given him any implied consent?(is there even such a thing?) He never asked, and was never granted verbal permission to go into any of the 3 doors he opened.
3. the Resolution, they let me go.
In about 5 minutes two St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Officers arrived. One officer came near me, but never spoke to me the whole time. The other STPSO and the State trooper had a 3-4 minute conversation out of ear range. The Sheriff's officer then moved his vehicle in front of the state cruiser car, and then he and the State Trooper approached me. The trooper informed me that "at this point this is no longer my seen, he is in charge", indicating the Sheriff’s Officer. He first asked me "where is the gun?" then "why is it not out here in our possession?" he needed to hear me say the line. So I gave him the line that "I don't consent to the search" He said that his problem with the situation was that I gave up the case but had not been truthful, but then I wouldn't give up the gun. He then tried this line on me, "do you have any drugs in the car? if you do its ok, just tell me now and it will be ok, if you just tell me now. If I find it later we have a problem". HAHA ! I know that line kind of like the one line "bet I can tell you where you got them shoes at", all too well. and I of course tell him "NO, no drugs.", which he's probably heard before as well. He then told me one thing that reassured me about the situation and my rights, "so you are gonna play the good citizen excersizing your rights, thats fine I have no problem with that, but I've got to be the good officer and do my job." He told me that he's calling in a K-9 unit to walk the car. He told me that if he does hit on the car, he will then have the probable cause to search. At this time he calls over his radio briefly, then he starts with the "stall questions". In this time he notices my uniform and asked if I knew a particular person that I worked with many years ago. I said I did know Mr. Don and his son Chad also worked with me. He said he has known them both well for many years, as I have also. Several minutes pass.
The stall questions slow down and then makes a cell phone call. This call I could hear, one side of. "hey, where are you?", "oh.." , "well I have one stopped here can you get over here?" "oh..." then I think he turned away. From that call I surmised that the K-9 unit was not near and not on the way...
The officer then started with a couple other questions while looking at the gun case.
"can I look in here?" -sure you can, just spare clips and clip holder.
"do you have a permit for the gun?" -which I do not have a CCW permit.
"what kind of gun is it?" -It's a Springfield XD-40, if he looked at the case it's written right there.
"Is it registered to you?" -Yes, and the papers are also right there in the case.
"how much did it cost?, where did you get it?" about $525 from a dealer in Covington.
At this point I realize these are all just stall questions and going no where and knowing the K9 is not in route and I asked "am I free to go?" I think the officer was a little taken back and changed his line of questioning. "have you ever been arrested?" I replied, "never". "Never? are you sure about that?" I haven't even had a parking ticket in 5 years, I'm super clean. He had my license and checked on his radio again. In another minute or so he came back to me and gave me his parting speech. It included "you didn't lie to me about your arrest record", "extend you some courtesy, because we know some same people." and "if this happens again, it won't end this way again", and he asked the State Trooper if he wanted to issue any citations. The State Trooper never even asked for my insurance or registration from the beginning. He said that there must have been a database error about my plates being expired in January and that it's obvious that they check out ok. (by the little renewal sticker on the plate? ? ? again, he never saw registration or insurance) He said to the S.T.P.S.O. "I think we have detained him long enough." Within another minute they put my knife, gun case, and my drivers license in my jeep and I was on my way home. Detained probably 30 minutes total.