Court Tosses Evidence From Pretextual Stop When Dashcam Shows Cop Had Zero Reason To Perform A Stop

from the 'i-um-just-wanted-to-congratulate-you-on-your-lawfulness-or-something' dept

The #BacktheBlue types like to say stuff like “If you don’t want to get arrested, don’t break the law.” But breaking the law is never a prerequisite for a traffic stop, search, and/or arrest. The nation’s top court has already said cops don’t actually have to enforce real laws. They can predicate stops on what they perceive the law to be, whether or not any actual law was broken.

Pretextual stops have also been given the Court’s blessing. As long as there’s a good enough reason to initiate a stop, cops can begin fishing for info or consent for a search. But they have to be quick about it and they have to have something approximating reasonable suspicion to continue questioning unrelated to the stop. There’s not enough of a bright line drawn anywhere that would ensure success in a lawsuit or a suppression hearing. Cops know this so they play the odds.

Sometimes this doesn’t work out for the cops. It’s a rarity but it happens. And it’s happening more frequently thanks to the Supreme Court’s Rodriguez decision and the increasing use of cameras by law enforcement officers.

The Newspaper has grabbed another ruling highlighting a completely bullshit traffic stop that led to drug and gun charges against the driver. The stop was completely pretextual. Pretext doesn’t invalidate a stop but the pretext itself must be valid — either a real traffic violation or one close enough to the real thing that the court can be persuaded to grant good faith.

None of that happened here. The defendant sought to suppress the evidence recovered from the search of his car, arguing he did not break any traffic law that would have given the officer justification to initiate a stop. The government argued that the defendant did not activate his turn signal before performing a right hand turn. It claimed Officer Caleb Sarchet “observed” this violation himself. Officer Sarchet needs to get his eyes checked.

From the decision [PDF]:

The video evidence from Officer Sarchet’s cruiser camera reveals that Defendant activated his turn signal prior to approaching the stop sign at the intersection of Poplar Street and Linn Street and prior to turning from Poplar Street right onto Linn Street. (Govt. Exhibit 2). The video also show that Defendant’s car approached that stop sign close to the righthand curb and that, after Defendant made the right turn, he proceeded in a legal manner for some distance and safely pulled to the curb when Officer Sarchet activated his police cruiser’s overhead lights. (Id.). Moreover, the video reveals that Defendant completed the right-hand turn with reasonable safety and no other traffic might have been affected by his movement. (Id.). In short, the video evidence establishes that Defendant made the right turn at the intersection in accordance with CMC Sections 506-80 and 506-84 after coming to a complete stop.

To “objectively” believe someone violated the law, someone has to, you know, actually violate the law. The officer also claimed he thought the state’s window tint law was violated but undercut that assertion with another assertion, resulting in this own goal.

In light of Officer Sarchet’s testimony clarifying that the sole basis for the traffic stop was Defendant’s alleged turn signal violation, (Doc. 33 at Page 30), the Court need not analyze whether Officer Sarchet had probable cause to belief Defendant violated Ohio Revised Code § 4513.241.

The court distinguishes this cop’s BS from the permissible BS allowed by the Supreme Court’s Heien decision.

The Supreme Court held that that a police officer’s objectively reasonable mistake of law can give rise to reasonable suspicion. In this case, Officer Sarchet stopped Defendant’s car solely because he believed that Defendant violated CMC § 506-80. However, the video evidence reveals that Defendant did not do so. Hypothetically, if a police officer’s alleged sole basis for a traffic stop was that a defendant ran a “green light” (which is obviously not a traffic violation), the Court doubts that the Supreme Court would determine that police officer’s action to be objectively reasonable, as disregard of fact and law are not the same as a mistake of fact and law.

All the evidence from the stop disappears. The defendant is free to go since every bit of evidence the government had came from a traffic stop predicated on someone observing traffic laws.

Filed Under: , , , , ,

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Court Tosses Evidence From Pretextual Stop When Dashcam Shows Cop Had Zero Reason To Perform A Stop”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Norahc (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Why should the cop even try? Between police unions supporting them no matter what, to good faith exceptions, to qualified immunity, to not having to pay for any of their mistakes; cops have zero reason to try.

As has been pointed out previously, they are a profession that gets rewarded for not learning and improving.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Cops, LIE, LIE, LIE. They will lie on what you did. They will lie to try and make you do what they want and give up your rights. They will LIE to protect each other. Everyone should have a Dashcam and everyone should record the police as that is your right, no matter if they tell you otherwise.

It’s also in their favor to not really know the laws and it better protects them. YOU, on the other hand, are expected to know all the laws. Someone who cuts people’s hair has far more training than someone training to be a cop.

If a person gets pulled over for a traffic law, then asks everyone else in the car for their ID also, REFUSE. Do not give them your ID or tell them who you are. Only the driver has to show his ID. They may tell you that you have to show them, but you don’t! Just ore LIES. F these tyrants. Stand up for your rights.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
This comment has been deemed funny by the community.
wshuff (profile) says:

“I suppose you want to know why I pulled you over.”

“Yes officer, what did I do?”

“It’s your license plate.”

“Oh no! What do you mean? What’s wrong with it?”

“It’s being displayed in an appropriate manner and I can see it. License and registration, please.”

“OK? . . . Here you go. But, why is it a problem again? I don’t understand?”

“AHA! You have a license and registration, too! I’m afraid I’m going to need to place you under arrest.”

“WHAT!? Why?”

“Well, I’m charging you with displaying your license plate and having a license and registration. In my experience, drug dealers to those very same things, so this is all very suspicious. You’re under arrest for trafficking drugs. Do you have any money on you?”

Anonymous Coward says:

Can anyone recommend a good dashcam that can link with others for multiple angles (front, back and side windows), store data locally but push the data to the cloud on demand (by button push or voice command, start pushing data to the cloud, stop again on request or timeout) and aren’t so huge they obstruct vision?

It’s time to load up my vehicles with a bit of anti-police defense tech.

bobob says:

This also says something about the cops making decisions based on who you are. I was stopped leaving my gf’s condos for essentially the same thing. I didn’t use my turn signal at a traffic light, because you can’t even go straight through. I also never carry my drover’s license on general principles. It was around 1:00 AM.

However, I’m almost 60 yo white guy driving a BMW, so after the cops ran my plates, they just said, "Have a nice night." Had I been someone they considered "less respectable" (in their opinion) based on what I looked like, life might have been very different. I’m also quite sure the cops were waiting out of sight to stop people for exactly that reason.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...