The imaginary “check em out” exception to the Fourth Amendment

The imaginary “check em out” exception to the Fourth Amendment

Law enforcement. Once in awhile needs reminders and refresher courses. On the constraints placed on them while on armed patrol in our communities.

There is no exception to the Fourth Amendment that permit hunches, generalized claims of lawlessness and disorder, broad brush strokes of “high crime area” that licenses law enforcement to check things out or perform a look see. With or without a warrant. Law enforcement is not the community baby sitter.  It is an armed, uniformed, trained force.  Authorized to enforce the law  … at gunpoint, and tragically, sometimes, by a gunshot to the head. Police must enforce the law….within the law. The ultimate Freedoms are at stake…not to be confined. And not to be dead.  Thus, law enforcement is subject to strict constitutional constraints. It simply has to be. We are not a militarized society.  As a result, they don’t get to go round just checking up on people.  That is not a legal act of enforcement. That’s babysitting. This ain’t nursery school.  This is our country. And man. We enjoy the greatest freedoms in the world. Let’s keep it that way.

The constitutional requirement of articulable facts of a minimum of reasonable suspicion for an minimal investigatory detention and articulable facts of probable cause for a full blown search of seizure is alive and well. It is the law of the land, including within localized parishes of Louisiana.

“The particular legal issue presented here has long been resolved by the United States Supreme Court in an unbroken line of cases cited often in the well-settled jurisprudence of this State. The issue is simple: Can a police officer conduct an investigatory stop and detain citizens otherwise legally operating motor vehicles on the public highways or private roads in this State solely because past crimes or suspicious activities have occurred in the area where motorists are traveling?

The answer is not even close: “No.”

THERE IS SIMPLY NO “CHECK-EM-OUT” exception to this Constitutional prohibition.

In this case there were no exigencies, i.e. there was no terrorist on the loose, no amber alert, no recent criminal activity in the area, no recent jail-break, no report of a truck matching the description of the one driven by Parker as being involved in any criminal activity. Officer Godwin could articulate nothing to establish a particularized and objective basis for suspecting Parker of criminal activity.” (Emphasis added)

Excerpt from the appeal of a black woman. Who fought a traffic stop. For six years. In Louisiana.

Following are links to this and another  Louisiana appellate decision. Both affirmed the continued viability in this state of the federal constitutional freedom from detentions, searches and seizures, predicated merely on hunches, vague or conclusory claims of high crimes and misdemeanors, and self enobled proclamations to take a “look see” or to “check em out.”

One is a one page grant of a writ which reversed the trial court’s upholding a warrant based on a sheriff’s desire to take a “look see” through a resident’s entire swath of computers and cell phones, including those of his child and wife, because an IP trace of an anonymous whistle blower site which identified some shenanigans within local government led to his home.  For an article on what happened, read this article.   Or this one from Louisiana Voice, by Tom Aswell, who bird dogged what happened.

The other decision, excerpted above, details the six year nightmare of a young black woman whom a deputy just wanted to check out. More details and analysis are available in an article posted by the Marshall Project.





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