An interesting Kozinski opinion
Here, in pdf.
Basically, police had probable cause to search a car, which was being used for drug transport. But they didn't want to tip off the owner just yet. So one officer faked being a drunk driver and bumped his car. Other officers "arrested" him. The driver and girlfriend were asked to come to a squad car to be interviewed, and during that another officer played car thief and "stole" their car. Police went in supposed pursuit, returned to say he'd gotten away. Police then got a warrant, searched it, and found narcotics.
The opinion determines this was a reasonable, if quite novel search. Police could have seized the car without a warrant -- it's a car, and they had probable cause. They carefully bumped his car in the faked accident. They returned all the property they could (claiming the thief had thrown it out the window during the pursuit -- you wonder that the suspect didn't think that a bit strange, was the driver thinking that he'd go faster if he lightened the car by a purse?).
[via the Volokh Conspiracy]
i've got to confess this makes me uneasy. the harder the police work at seeming like something other than the police, the more i worry about what all they might get up to when they think we aren't looking. this particular case might be okay, but as a general rule, i don't think i'd like the tactic.
Posted by: Nomen Nescio at June 8, 2007 02:52 PM
How about taking private property for public use without just compensation?
Posted by: Rudy DiGiacinto at June 8, 2007 02:57 PM
How about, "No, there was nothing in the car that was illegal until that man stole it. I bet the cops were trying to make a drug deal in a car that couldn't be traced back to them, or maybe they had to steal it to have time to plant drugs without us seeing them."
Posted by: straightarrow at June 8, 2007 09:05 PM
From the opinion, this was a sting from the getco, based on phone taps and a previous sting (buy) that went down in the car.
So my question is this: If they had so much probable cause, why didn't they get the warrant ahead of time?
Posted by: Patrick R at June 9, 2007 08:22 AM
Sounds more like "grand theft auto" and "leaving the scene of an accident", and possibly "reckless endangerment"...
They're the "Only Ones": http://waronguns.blogspot.com/
Posted by: Nimrod45 at June 9, 2007 08:40 AM
Yeah, if they had the time to plan this elaborate ruse, couldn't they have gotten a warrant for the things they planned to seize?
Posted by: Jim W at June 10, 2007 11:20 AM
We have to have civil asset forfeiture because aggressively prosecuting all drug cases up to the top suppliers would ruin some very sweet deals and put a stop to some very high official's careers. Why not spray all the opium fields worldwide with paraquat-or-daisy cutters? Put a stop to domestic demand, say, death for all drug users AND dealers? The bitterest medicine is usually the most effective.
Posted by: The Mechanic at June 10, 2007 08:48 PM