Baptist pastor tased & beaten by police at checkpoint

Missouri Criminal Defense LawyerThere is a news story about a Baptist pastor who was driving home to Phoenix, AZ from San Diego. He was stopped at a customs checkpoint (not actually at any border, apparently).  He informed  the agents that his business was his own and he would not answer their questions, but just wanted to be on his way.

They brought up a drug dog up to sniff his car trunk and then informed him that the dog indicated that he had drugs or a person hidden in the car trunk and that they were going to search it.

[Note:  the indication of drugs turned out to be false, but not soon enough to do this guy any good]

When he refused to get out, they broke out his car windows, ground his head into the broken glass, dragged him out, threw him on the ground while tasing him throughout the entire procedure.

After a trip to the emergency room to stitch up his face, they took him to jail (I’m not sure for what).

When he later asked why they had done it, he was told it was because he did not answer their questions.

Here is some local coverage of the story:  Pastor Claims Border Agents Beat Him

Here is a YouTube video of the guy telling his side of the story:

In the news story the border patrol claims they never use tasers. Here is a video that the pastor made showing one of his taser wounds (looked real to me –and I’ve seen taser wounds) and some of the spent taser wires that he collected from inside his car after the incident:

I really admire this guy.  It takes guts to refuse to answer police questions about one’s personal business. Even when you know you are completely innocent, this can still happen to you.  It is so much easier to give them what they want.  I fear our police state will get worse before it gets better.

BIG U.S. Supreme Court decision on Search & Seizure

Missouri Criminal Defense LawyerIn 1981 the U.S. Supreme Court decided, in the case of New York v. Belton, that if an occupant of a motor vehicle was arrested, the police could search the entire passenger compartment of the vehicle to look for weapons or evidence of a crime.

Under the fourth amendment such a search would normally be considered unreasonable and therefore unconstitutional, unless a search warrant was obtained. Even so, the Belton case has been the rule in Missouri ever since and gave the police an absolute right to search the entire passenger compartment of a vehicle once any occupant of that vehicle has been arrested.

Yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court in Arizona v.  Gant overruled its 28 year old decision in Belton by holding that the police could not search inside a vehicle, once the arrested person was away from the car, unless they had reason to believe that evidence of the crime might be found in the vehicle.

This is a huge decision.  It is huge because a large proportion of drug arrests occur when the police arrest someone for an unrelated offense such as driving while revoked.  Once the person is handcuffed and placed in the patrol car, the police always return to the vehicle and search the passenger compartment thoroughly.

It will be interesting to see how both police and citizens react to this change in the current search and seizure law.

Citizens may be more likely to step out of their vehicle after being pulled over so as to ensure that they will not have their vehicle searched if they were arrested for some reason.

Search and seizureOne wonders if some police might be tempted to change their current practice of getting suspects out of a vehicle before arresting them. It’s hard to imagine a driver being arrested while still seated in his car and then being commanded to sit still while the officer searches the vehicle around him.  If that were permitted, we might see the police running public service announcements telling drivers to remain in their vehicles when stopped, lest they be attacked by police officers who–misunderstanding the person’s actions-believe they are in danger.

I doubt the courts will permit the police to search vehicles by forcing arrested persons to stay inside the vehicle after arrest. If that is the case, then getting out of your car at a traffic stop would be an unnecessary precaution. It might also serve as a signal to police that evidence of a crime may be in the vehicle.

Another thing we may see is an escalation of vehicles being towed by police after an arrest (for safety reasons, of course). Then the police would thoroughly search the vehicle under what is known as the “inventory” exception to the search warrant requirement.  Click here for “inventory search” explanation.  A driver fortunate enough to be pulled over near a legal parking space may want to take advantage of that opportunity and deny police an excuse to tow the car.

We will have to see how this all plays out.

Come back with a warrant