1. Guy driving down the street has a brake light out.
2. Guy gets pulled over and car gets searched... well, because as we all know, if you have a burned out light bulb in your car you must be doing something illegal.
3. Guy is convicted of drug trafficking and is in prison.
Thing is, in North Carolina, a vehicle is completely legal with a single operating brake light. But the fact the law enforcement officer didn't know the state law is of no consequence. Hey, 4th Amendment, guess you don't mean poo anymore.
WASHINGTON (AP) - The Supreme Court will decide whether police have probable cause to make a traffic stop if it turns out the officer was mistaken in thinking the driver violated the law.
The justices on Monday said they will hear an appeal from a North Carolina man who claims his Fourth Amendment rights were violated when he was pulled over for having a burned-out brake light. The police officer ultimately found cocaine in the car and the driver and his passenger were convicted of drug trafficking.
A state appeals court ruled the stop was impermissible because state law only required a car to have one functioning brake light. But a divided North Carolina Supreme Court reversed, finding the stop was permitted if the officer's mistake about the law was reasonable.
Really, an officer doesn't have to know the law and can violate your Constitutional rights along the way with no consequence?
Thankfully, the case is going to the United States Supreme Court, where hopefully, someone gets it.
Reference your #2 point, as an LEO myself I have to straighten that out. Those tiny infractions like bulbs burned out are really only there to give you the ability to make contact with citizens. I've found countless drunks, dope, and un served arrest warrants from stopping people for those exact things. Also, while I see this guys point, it could become a slippery slope; for example: A be on the lookout alert for a red Nissan Maxima comes out reference a murder suspect. Say the cop goes out and mistakenly pulls a blue Nissan Maxima or a red Altima. Now say that the original witness statement for the BOLO information was wrong, and the suspect vehicle actually is the red Altima he pulls over. Does the murder suspect walk free because, short of a misunderstanding or wrong information, the officer had no reason to make contact with him? Stuff like that happens, so it will be interesting to see how the Court goes with this one.