10/30/14 Illegal Search


Law enforcement officers – just like everyone else – must obey the law.  Wearing a badge is not a license to break the law.

Police officers may not conduct searches of people and their possessions based on a whim.  A hunch.  Or intuition.  There must be probable cause.  Reasonable suspicion supported by facts that criminal activity may be afoot.

Anything other than that is a Fourth Amendment violation.

So, it’s noteworthy that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit has given the okay for a lawsuit against a Utah deputy and state trooper.

Utah Trooper Brian Bairrett stopped and ticketed Sherida Felders for speeding.

Bairrett concluded Felders was transporting cocaine between California and Colorado based on the following observations.  Two males – ages 17 and 18 – were with her.  She acted nervous – as do most people who get stopped by the police.

He saw automobile air fresheners. 

But the license plate holder had that dead giveaway clue.  It was inscribed with the name “Jesus.”

Felders denied permission to search her car.  So, Deputy Jeff Malcom and his K-9 were called.  The dog entered the car where it hit upon a package of beef jerky.

After several hours, the three were released.  No drugs.  No contraband.  Nothing illegal.

A lawsuit filed by Felders and her passengers will now move forward.

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