By Collin County Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal
Today I’m posting a video created by a guy driving home from a Star Trek convention with a buddy who was stopped by a police officer for an alleged minor traffic offense. He and his friend spend the better part of an hour being harassed, manipulated and badgered by the officer. It’s a textbook example of when an unsuspecting fly gets tangled in the web of a nasty spider and can’t get away.
You can watch the video here.
As a Criminal Defense Lawyer having dealt with many bad searches, here are a few things I think are important to point out about this stop/ video.
Situations Like This Rarely Come to Light in the First Place
The reason this type of harassment of citizens never really comes to light is because these guys are completely innocent. They’ve got no reason to ever acquire, watch, or publish this video. In fact, most people who go through something like this either just want to forget that it ever happened or were so intimidated by the experience that they simply walk away.
Another reason why this situation is seldom exposed is because when an officer does profile correctly and find marijuana, cocaine or methamphetamine — the citizens regard all the singing, dancing, and acting he did to get into the car as “great police work.” Obviously what is ultimately found, if anything, doesn’t suddenly validate the illegality of the search.
This is an Extreme (but not unheard of) Scenario
This situation is extreme. It’s very common to see stops for very thin reasons, and very common to see cops play delay games like “the computer is slow today”. Getting a k-9 to give a false hit (if that’s really what happened) would be highly uncommon, and simply making up a reason altogether for the stop (if that is what really happened) would also be well out-of-bounds. Police often reach or stretch for reasons to detain someone, but normally it’s based on at least a smidgen of good faith.
Why this Search Was Illegal
Courts have long struggled with these types of police games. In United States v. Shabazz, 993 F.2d 431 (5th Cir. 1993) citing United States v. Guzman, 864 F.2d 1512, (10th Cir. 1988) the Fifth Circuit stated:
“An officer conducting a routine traffic stop may request a driver’s license and vehicle registration, run a computer check, and issue a citation. When the driver has produced a valid license and proof that he is entitled to operate the car, he must be allowed to proceed on his way, without being subject to further delay by police for additional questioning. In order to justify a temporary detention for questioning, the officer must also have reasonable suspicion of illegal transactions in drugs or of any other serious crime.”
Also, it’s a well known game to wait for the arrival of a K-9 unit in the event the detaining officer suspects drugs.
*Jeremy Rosenthal is Board Certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and licensed by the Supreme Court of Texas. Nothing in this article is intended to be legal advice. For legal advice about any situation you should contact an attorney directly. Communications sent through this blog are not confidential, privileged, nor do they create an attorney-client relationship.