A great beginning
"North Philly, May 4, 2001. Officer Sean Devlin, Narcotics Strike Force, was working the morning shift. Undercover surveillance. The neighborhood? Tough as a three dollar steak. Devlin knew. Five years on the beat, nine months with the Strike Force. He’d made fifteen, twenty drug busts in the neighborhood.
Devlin spotted him: a lone man on the corner. Another approached. Quick exchange of words. Cash handed over; small objects handed back. Each man then quickly on his own way. Devlin knew the guy wasn’t buying bus tokens. He radioed a description and Officer Stein picked up the buyer. Sure enough: three bags of crack in the guy’s pocket. Head downtown and book him. Just another day at the office."
Then it continues:
"That was not good enough for the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, which held in a divided decision that the police lacked probable cause to arrest the defendant."
It's Chief Justice Roberts, dissenting from a denial of certiorari. He must have had real fun with that one.
"What is required is simply “a reasonable ground for belief of guilt” ... “[A] police officer may draw inferences based on his own experience in deciding whether probable cause exists.”'
I agree with Roberts that it was a reasonable assumption, but it just seems like officers are given carte blanche in this regard. Glad it was denied.
Posted by: Stan at October 14, 2008 04:06 PM
Good. The supreme court makes idiotic decisions all of the time. At least this time it doesn't benefit the anti-drug warriors that are crushing personal liberties in this country.
Posted by: pierre at October 14, 2008 09:53 PM
Uh, did you guys read it?
Based not only on common sense but also his experience as a narcotics officer and his previous work in the neighborhood, Officer Devlin concluded that what happened on that street corner was probably a drug transaction. That is by far the most reasonable conclusion, even though our cases only require it to be a reasonable conclusion. I would grant certiorari and reverse the judgment of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.
Posted by: Unix-Jedi at October 14, 2008 10:10 PM
Yes, we read it. Haven’t you read all those stories about people arrested for legal open carry? And what about the stories of innocent people in jail? Yeah, police testimony is foolproof, eh? What we want is for police to base their actions on actual evidence, not their conclusions...no matter how "reasonable" (whatever that means) they seem.
Posted by: Graystar at October 14, 2008 11:07 PM
Graystar, are you so out of it that you can't tell the difference between a cop doing his job and a cop who doesn't know his job?
As long as drugs are illegal the police ARE REQUIRED to arrest for drugs.
You want the anti-drug stuff to stop? Get off your ass and work to get drugs legal.
Now you have just another case of a Judge making a decision that is completly out of touch with the real world.
Posted by: Dan Hamilton at October 15, 2008 07:58 AM
Well, I live in New York City, where you have to submit yourself to being searched if you want to ride the public mass transit system, and where the courts have upheld the cops power to stop and search anyone they please. If you think it’s wrong to require that cops have some evidence before violating your rights then you’re the one who’s out of touch.
Posted by: Graystar at October 15, 2008 08:52 AM
@Graystar, a law enforcement officer witnessing a crime is "evidence" and should provide more than enough probably cause to detain a suspect.
Posted by: Greg at October 15, 2008 12:38 PM
“a law enforcement officer witnessing a crime is ‘evidence’...”
No, it’s not. It’s testimony, and history shows that it’s just as subject to abuse as testimony from anyone else. There’s nothing special about the testimony of a cop.
Personally, I would say that a cop’s testimony is the most suspect of all, because it’s a serious problem for the officer if his own testimony doesn’t clearly support his actions. Didn’t you see Brett Darrow’s video of a cop threatening to make up charges? Without Darrow’s video that cop could have said anything and the court would likely have accepted it.
An officer’s testimony should always be considered tainted by the officer’s self interest.
Posted by: Graystar at October 15, 2008 02:37 PM
Gun owners say they are freedom fighters, but only as long as freedom means the ability to own and carry whatever hardware they please.
Otherwise, many of them are actually toadies for the police state.
It's one reason I gave up being a gun rights activist; I couldn't stand the hypocrisy.
I hope gun owners enjoy Barack's new world order, where he'll continue to wield the powers that George W. Bush accumulated.
Posted by: anonymous at October 15, 2008 03:55 PM