CJ 227-01: Criminal Procedure
“One may well ask: How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others? The answer lies in the fact that there are two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but, a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
Imagine a perfect society, where the population had a standard set of rules and followed them. In that perfect society, everyone knew the rules down to a specific science hence, they knew how to obey said rules. Unfortunately in our time, we do not have a perfect society. Our civilization has lost the knowledge of their rights unless either; a.) laws were broken by an individual or b.) the individual is studying or examining criminal law. Either way, our society unknowingly forfeits their rights in certain situations. On the other hand, there are law enforcement officers who have sworn to uphold these rights to obtain their position. Some do not know themselves, when they have crossed the line of duty or violated a right. It is up to us to break down and identify the validity and righteousness of the “Officer Smith & The Gold Pontiac” situation we are presented with.
Reasonable suspicion is “a standard used in criminal procedure, more relaxed than probable cause, that can justify less-intrusive searches. A reasonable suspicion exists when a reasonable person under the circumstances, would, based upon specific and articulable facts, suspect that a crime has been committed (Reasonable Suspicion, Cornell Law School Library ).” Officer Smith pulled over a gold, older model Pontiac because she noticed tape on what she suspected to be broken. One might wonder why Officer Smith pulled the Pontiac over. In most states, the driver is held accountable for faulty equipment of their vehicle. Unless the tape is red, reflective and transparent, an officer has every right to pull the driver over and issue a ticket. In my own experience, it is highly likely for a police officer to pull someone over if there was an obstruction of a head or taillight. I myself have been pulled over for something similar in which I received a warning or ticket. On her way to the driver’s window, Officer Smith remembers the description of a vehicle that was recently involved in a roadside killing of another police officer. That description fit with the Pontiac she had just pulled over. Officer Smith proceeds to ask the driver to get out of the vehicle so she may conduct a quick pat down for weapons. According to the Fourth Amendment, a justifiable search begins with reasonable suspicion. In this case, Officer Smith asks the driver to endure a “stop and frisk”. This means, the officer had the right to ask for a quick pat down of the driver’s outer clothing in search of a weapon(s). In my belief, the driver’s rights were not violated and valid based on the officer’s request for a stop and frisk. Nothing illegal has happened between the two. “If, during the pat down for weapons, the officer feels a weapon on the individual, the officer then has probable cause to conduct a complete search.” (Roberson, Wallace & Stuckey, 2007; p.83) In our example, a weapon was not felt or found on the driver. Furthermore, Officer Smith has now conducted what’s known as a “Terry Stop”. What is the difference between a Terry Stop and the Stop and Frisk you ask? There isn’t any significant difference. Prior to “Terry Vs. Ohio” (1968), a stop and frisk protected against illegitimate search and seizure. Where as after, it is come to be known as; constitutional according to circumstances where a reasonably suspicious officer has a valid concern for societies or his/her safety. After the Terry Stop, Officer Smith directed the driver to have a seat in the vehicle and asks for their driver license and registration. I would think that...