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PA supreme court says screw the 4th, vehicles now searchable without a warrant

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  • PA supreme court says screw the 4th, vehicles now searchable without a warrant

    http://www.pottsmerc.com/general-new...-warrant-in-pa

    Cops can now search your car without a warrant in Pa.

    If the police stop you in Pennsylvania, they don’t need a warrant to search your car.

    And soon, you could be in trouble even if they find nothing.

    The state Supreme Court ruled last week that police are allowed to search vehicles without a warrant. The state General Assembly, meanwhile, is moving forward with a bill that would give cops the authority to arrest people caught with “secret compartments” in their vehicles, even if there is nothing illegal in those suspicious containers.

    It adds up to greater authority for police and prosecutors but less privacy for Pennsylvania drivers.

    The split-decision from the Supreme Court allows police to conduct searches of cars based only on probable cause — that is, as long as the officers conducting the search have a reason to believe there are illegal goods or evidence of a crime hidden inside the vehicle.

    Writing for the majority in the 4-2 ruling, Justice Seamus McCaffery said requiring police to have probable cause for a search is “a strong and sufficient safeguard against illegal searches,” and brings state law in line with federal law allowing warrantless searches of vehicles.

    Defense attorneys and civil liberties groups disagree.

    Reggie Shuford, executive director of the Pennsylvania ACLU, said he worries that killing the requirement for a search warrant eliminates an important check on police power.

    “I think getting a warrant is significant because it is one more deterrent against bad police behavior,” he told PA Independent. “There was really no reason for the court to overturn the law. We have a long history of strong protections for individual rights in Pennsylvania.”

    Some states have constitutional language requiring a warrant before a vehicle can be searched, but Pennsylvania’s does not. In the ruling, McCaffery said that has caused a wide range of confusing and contradictory rulings from state courts that have examined the issue.

    “To provide greater uniformity in the assessment of individual cases and more consistency with regard to the admissibility of the fruits of vehicular searches based on probable cause, a more easily applied rule — such as that of the federal automobile exception — is called for,” he wrote.

    In a dissenting opinion, Justice Debra McCloskey Todd said the court was “eviscerating” longstanding privacy protections by adopting the “diluted federal automobile exemption.”

    “By so doing, our Court heedlessly contravenes over 225 years of unyielding protection against unreasonable search and seizure which our people have enjoyed as their birthright,” Todd wrote.

    But law enforcement in Pennsylvania might soon get a gift from the Legislature, as well.

    On the same day the Supreme Court ruling was announced, the House Judiciary Committee unanimously approved legislation making it a crime to possess a car with “secret compartments.” If the bill becomes law, anyone caught with such compartments could be charged with a first-degree misdemeanor and have their vehicle seized by police — even if the compartments hold nothing but air.

    A conviction would carry up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

    State Rep. Kate Harper, R-Montgomery, the bill’s sponsor, said law enforcement asked her to introduce the bill. Police are concerned about vehicles that pass through Pennsylvania on a well-known smuggling route between New York and Florida.

    Guns, drugs and even people can be smuggled inside those secret compartments, she said.

    If police happen to catch a smuggler with illicit goods, they don’t need any additional laws to arrest the suspect. But if the bill passes, law enforcement will have another way to stop the suspected smugglers — even if they aren’t carrying anything, Harper said.

    “The objective is to get those cars and trucks off the road, so if you’re using the same truck to drive back and forth between Florida and New York and we catch you doing it, then we can it off the road,” Harper said this week.

    To find an example of how that law works in practice, look no further than Pennsylvania’s neighbor to the west.

    Last year, Ohio made “secret compartments” illegal. The Ohio law, like the proposed bill in Pennsylvania, specifies the compartment must be “used or intended to be used” for the concealment or transportation of illegal substances.

    But in December, Norman Gurley became the first person in Ohio arrested for having a secret compartment in his vehicle. The compartment was empty.

    According to local news reports, police in Lorain County stopped Gurley and claimed to smell marijuana in the car, giving them probable cause to search the vehicle, which is also legal under Ohio law.

    The cops found no drugs, but they noticed wires leading to the back of the car. The police eventually uncovered the illegal compartment, which was empty, and arrested Gurley.

    “Without the hidden compartment law, we would not have had any charges on the suspect,” Lt. Michael Combs of the state highway patrol told WKYC-TV.

    If Harper’s bill becomes law, Pennsylvania would join a small but growing number of states in which secret compartments in vehicles have been made illegal at the request of law enforcement groups and district attorneys.

    Jonathan Turley, a law professor at George Washington University, views the growth of those statues as the result of state Legislatures giving little thought to the consequences of adding more crimes to the state code.

    “It is part of the expanding criminalization of America where virtually any act can be charged as a crime by police,” Turley wrote in December about the Gurley case.

    Harper says she only wants to target those who are using the compartments for criminal behavior. The bill was amended in committee to require law enforcement to prove a compartment exists with the intent to be used for criminal activity before a vehicle can be taken.

    Harper’s bill was approved with a unanimous vote in the House Judiciary Committee on April 29 and sent to the full House for consideration. There is no timetable for a floor vote.

    Our nation is losing its mind, especially in the NE and on the west coast.

  • #2
    Love the Castle Doctrine.
    I yell "PIKACHU" before I tase someone.

    Comment


    • #3
      Are you talking about the secret compartment stuff only? Because searching vehicles with PC and no warrant is nothing new. Police have been searching vehicles with PC only (for good reason) for decades - legally with standing by the SCOTUS. I'll let wiki explain...

      "The motor vehicle exception was first established by the United States Supreme Court in 1925, in Carroll v. United States.[1] The motor vehicle exception allows an officer to search a vehicle without a search warrant as long as he or she has probable cause to believe that evidence or contraband is located in the vehicle.[2] The exception is based on the idea that there is a lower expectation of privacy in motor vehicles due to the regulations they operate. Additionally, the ease of mobility creates an inherent exigency to prevent the removal of evidence and contraband. In Pennsylvania v. Labron the U.S. Supreme Court, stated, “If a car is readily mobile and probable cause exists to believe it contains contraband, the Fourth Amendment permits the police to search the vehicle without more.”

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by sapper324 View Post
        Are you talking about the secret compartment stuff only? Because searching vehicles with PC and no warrant is nothing new. Police have been searching vehicles with PC only (for good reason) for decades - legally with standing by the SCOTUS. I'll let wiki explain...

        "The motor vehicle exception was first established by the United States Supreme Court in 1925, in Carroll v. United States.[1] The motor vehicle exception allows an officer to search a vehicle without a search warrant as long as he or she has probable cause to believe that evidence or contraband is located in the vehicle.[2] The exception is based on the idea that there is a lower expectation of privacy in motor vehicles due to the regulations they operate. Additionally, the ease of mobility creates an inherent exigency to prevent the removal of evidence and contraband. In Pennsylvania v. Labron the U.S. Supreme Court, stated, “If a car is readily mobile and probable cause exists to believe it contains contraband, the Fourth Amendment permits the police to search the vehicle without more.”
        I was previously under the assumption that the PA state constitution had set a higher standard. Thank you for bringing me up to speed.

        The secret compartment laws do bother me. If someone has something illegal in one, then they should be charged for the contraband. However, when I lived in downtown Atlanta, I created a hidden compartment in my primary vehicle at the time for the sole purpose of securing a firearm. I couldn't sleep at night if I ever enabled a filthy thief to get their hands on a firearm, and some areas were off-limits (stadiums, government buildings). It worked too, as my car was broken into, and the thief never found it. According to these stupid hidden compartment laws, that makes my reasonable forethought a crime.

        If you immediately inform the stopping officer of the compartment's presence, is it still considered hidden? I'd still have a problem with these laws if not, but it would make them a little more palatable.

        Comment


        • #5
          I am so glad to live in a state that, per state constitutional amendment passed by the voters, follows federal law on search and seizure.
          Government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem. - Ronald Reagan

          I don't think It'll happen in the US because we don't trust our government. We are a country of skeptics, raised by skeptics, founded by skeptics. - Amaroq

          Comment


          • #6
            How does the law define a 'secret' compartment?

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by Mulgrave600 View Post
              How does the law define a 'secret' compartment?
              Can't tell you, it's a secret.
              Retired

              Comment


              • #8
                "The split-decision from the Supreme Court allows police to conduct searches of cars based only on probable cause"

                ---> And what would have been the level of proof required for a search warrant?

                "In a dissenting opinion, Justice Debra McCloskey Todd said the court was “eviscerating” longstanding privacy protections by adopting the “diluted federal automobile exemption.”

                “By so doing, our Court heedlessly contravenes over 225 years of unyielding protection against unreasonable search and seizure which our people have enjoyed as their birthright,” Todd wrote.

                ---> Oh how I love hyperbole! A very interesting read of the PA Supreme Court.

                http://www.pacourts.us/assets/opinio...81959.pdf?cb=1

                Comment


                • #9
                  The Cop Block a**holes had a HUGE boner over this one.

                  "The Supreme Court will overturn this!!!!!!!!!"

                  Well, actually....

                  Regarding the "secret" compartments - I'm on the fence about it. Kind of runs along the lines of confiscating hidden money at the border. Having money isn't illegal. But, what it's being used for and how it's transported is the problem. If you have a small compartment to hide money, valuables, your weapon, etc. - then discretion should be allowed to be used. However, if you're running around in a car with a bunch of secret compartments that can hide large amounts of drugs, money, or even bodies - and it's pretty freaking obvious that there's no other intended use - than I'm all for taking that vehicle and arresting the driver. IMHO.
                  Originally posted by RSGSRT
                  We've reached a point where natural selection doesn't have a chance in hell of keeping up with the procreation of imbeciles.
                  Why is it acceptable for you to be an idiot, but not acceptable for me to point it out?

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    I also have a problem with this guy:

                    Jonathan Turley, a law professor at George Washington University, views the growth of those statues as the result of state Legislatures giving little thought to the consequences of adding more crimes to the state code.

                    “It is part of the expanding criminalization of America where virtually any act can be charged as a crime by police,” Turley wrote in December about the Gurley case.
                    This guy can't be serious. New ways of committing crimes = new laws to combat those new ways of committing crimes. Isn't that kind of the purpose of having law makers?
                    Originally posted by RSGSRT
                    We've reached a point where natural selection doesn't have a chance in hell of keeping up with the procreation of imbeciles.
                    Why is it acceptable for you to be an idiot, but not acceptable for me to point it out?

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by sapper324 View Post
                      Are you talking about the secret compartment stuff only? Because searching vehicles with PC and no warrant is nothing new. Police have been searching vehicles with PC only (for good reason) for decades - legally with standing by the SCOTUS. I'll let wiki explain...

                      "The motor vehicle exception was first established by the United States Supreme Court in 1925, in Carroll v. United States.[1] The motor vehicle exception allows an officer to search a vehicle without a search warrant as long as he or she has probable cause to believe that evidence or contraband is located in the vehicle.[2] The exception is based on the idea that there is a lower expectation of privacy in motor vehicles due to the regulations they operate. Additionally, the ease of mobility creates an inherent exigency to prevent the removal of evidence and contraband. In Pennsylvania v. Labron the U.S. Supreme Court, stated, “If a car is readily mobile and probable cause exists to believe it contains contraband, the Fourth Amendment permits the police to search the vehicle without more.”
                      Yeah, Carroll Doctrine is one of the most important areas of case law taught at police academies. It's Cop 101. This is the way it has ALWAYS (for any cop who is alive today) been for my state. I don't know anything about the PA constitution, and I'm guessing Carbon must be right as to why this made news.

                      Anywho, I would not call this a significant erosion of the 4th Amendment because it's such a long standing precedent at the federal constitutional level.

                      By the way, PC isn't the highest standard, but it's not the lowest either. Usually you're gonna get PC from something pretty rock solid, i.e. contraband in plain view, odor of marijuana, hit from a drug dog, etc. It's not just that you can stop a car and search it just because the driver is acting funny or something. And the PC has to be specific. You're going to have to articulate exactly WHAT type of evidence or contraband you think is in the car and only search places where that evidence/contraband could be concealed.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by allen_gamble View Post
                        Yeah, Carroll Doctrine is one of the most important areas of case law taught at police academies. It's Cop 101. This is the way it has ALWAYS (for any cop who is alive today) been for my state. I don't know anything about the PA constitution, and I'm guessing Carbon must be right as to why this made news.

                        Anywho, I would not call this a significant erosion of the 4th Amendment because it's such a long standing precedent at the federal constitutional level.

                        By the way, PC isn't the highest standard, but it's not the lowest either. Usually you're gonna get PC from something pretty rock solid, i.e. contraband in plain view, odor of marijuana, hit from a drug dog, etc. It's not just that you can stop a car and search it just because the driver is acting funny or something. And the PC has to be specific. You're going to have to articulate exactly WHAT type of evidence or contraband you think is in the car and only search places where that evidence/contraband could be concealed.
                        From my understanding, PA law was that a warrant was needed to search before this. All this ruling does is bring PA to the standard of most of the rest of the country.
                        Originally posted by RSGSRT
                        We've reached a point where natural selection doesn't have a chance in hell of keeping up with the procreation of imbeciles.
                        Why is it acceptable for you to be an idiot, but not acceptable for me to point it out?

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Aerohead View Post
                          Regarding the "secret" compartments - I'm on the fence about it. Kind of runs along the lines of confiscating hidden money at the border. Having money isn't illegal. But, what it's being used for and how it's transported is the problem. If you have a small compartment to hide money, valuables, your weapon, etc. - then discretion should be allowed to be used. However, if you're running around in a car with a bunch of secret compartments that can hide large amounts of drugs, money, or even bodies - and it's pretty freaking obvious that there's no other intended use - than I'm all for taking that vehicle and arresting the driver. IMHO.
                          Sorry, but absent proof of an actual crime having been committed, there should be no law against having a secret compartment in your vehicle. Or 2 or 10.

                          This is a perfect example of how gun laws are enacted. Because one person did something, now we make a law that effects everybody based on the fact that some MIGHT do that same something.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Carbonfiberfoot View Post
                            I was previously under the assumption that the PA state constitution had set a higher standard. Thank you for bringing me up to speed.

                            The secret compartment laws do bother me. If someone has something illegal in one, then they should be charged for the contraband. However, when I lived in downtown Atlanta, I created a hidden compartment in my primary vehicle at the time for the sole purpose of securing a firearm. I couldn't sleep at night if I ever enabled a filthy thief to get their hands on a firearm, and some areas were off-limits (stadiums, government buildings). It worked too, as my car was broken into, and the thief never found it. According to these stupid hidden compartment laws, that makes my reasonable forethought a crime.

                            If you immediately inform the stopping officer of the compartment's presence, is it still considered hidden? I'd still have a problem with these laws if not, but it would make them a little more palatable.
                            Yeah and what about the next guy who owns that car and doesn't even know about the hidden compartment.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              There are still states out there that did not adopt the Carroll Doctrine. I think it makes perfect sense. The vehicle is mobile and getting a warrant in some cases will risk the destruction/loss of evidence. TN's Constitution is more strict in some areas than the Federal Constitution, but luckily we adopted the Carroll doctrine eons ago.
                              I'm 10-8 like a shark in a sea of crime..

                              Comment

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