Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Supreme Court rules 8-1 that cops can pull you over for the wrong reason

The Supreme Court ruled on Monday that a police officer can make a traffic stop for the wrong reason so long as they have a “reasonable” understanding of the law they are enforcing, NBC News reported on Monday.

“To be reasonable is not to be perfect,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the court’s 8-1 decision. “And so the Fourth Amendment allows for some mistakes on the part of government officials, giving them ‘fair leeway for enforcing the law in the community’s protection.’”

The case concerned the 2009 arrest of Nicholas Heien near Dobson, North Carolina. Sgt. Matt Darisse pulled Heien over for having only one working brake light, then found a bag of cocaine while searching his vehicle and charged him with attempted drug trafficking. However, the state only requires motorists to have one brake light working at any time. Heien’s attorneys argued that this made Darisse’s search unlawful.

Roberts wrote that the ruling “does not discourage officers from learning the law,” because the Fourth Amendment only covers “objectively reasonable” errors from police.

Justices Elena Kagan and Ruth Bader Ginsburg filed separate concurring opinions. Justice Sonia Sotomayor filed the only dissent, arguing that the ruling meant “further eroding the Fourth Amendment’s protection of civil liberties” at a time when that protection has already been deteriorated.

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Saturday, December 6, 2014

No charges for GA cop with questionable past in fatal shooting of teen holding Wii controller

Georgia police officer won’t be charged in the fatal shooting of a teenager holding a video game controller — even though a previous grand jury found the use of force was not authorized.

A grand jury in Bartow County declined to indict Cpl. Beth Gatny, of Euharlee police, in the February shooting death of 17-year-old Christopher Roupe.

Police said the teen pointed a gun at one of them Feb. 14, when officers knocked on the door of his family’s mobile home to serve a warrant to Roupe’s father on a probation violation.

Gatny said she heard “what she believed to be the action of a firearm” before the door was opened and drew her own weapon, which she fired after the teen opened the door holding what she believed was a pistol.

Family members, however, said the boy was holding a Nintendo Wii game controller.

Gatny could have faced possible charges of involuntary manslaughter and reckless conduct in the teen’s death.

But the grand jury this week found insufficient evidence for the case to proceed.

“Because the grand jury has determined that the actions of Officer Gatny did not rise to the level of a criminal offense, this concludes the involvement of the District Attorney’s Office in this matter,” said District Attorney Rosemary Greene.

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