Thursday, April 24, 2008

SUPREME COURT RULES ILLEGAL ARREST DOESN'T INVALIDATE SEARCH

MONDOGLOBO CNN reports: The Supreme Court offered unanimous support for police Wednesday by allowing drug evidence gathered after an arrest that violated state law to be used at trial, an important search-and-seizure case turning on the constitutional limits of "probable cause."

"When officers have probable cause to believe that a person has committed a crime in their presence, the Fourth Amendment permits them to make an arrest, and to search the suspect in order to safeguard evidence and ensure their own safety," Justice Antonin Scalia wrote. David Lee Moore was stopped by Portsmouth, Virginia, officers five years ago for driving his vehicle on a suspended license. Under state law in such incidents, only a summons is to be issued and the motorist is to be allowed to go. Instead, detectives detained Moore for almost an hour, arrested him, then searched him and found cocaine.

At trial, Moore's lawyers tried to suppress the evidence, but the state judge allowed it, even though the court noted the arrest violated state law. A police detective, asked why the man was arrested, replied, "Just our prerogative."

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