Bloomberg Law’s® extensive network of reporters and editors helps subscribers to stay ahead of legal
May 19 — Five members of a special police task force didn't act unreasonably when they swooped down with two squad cars on a stationary vehicle in a high-crime area, yanked the occupants out and cuffed them while purportedly checking to see whether the car had been parked illegally, a divided U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit ruled May 17.
The decision is notable because a dissenting judge accused his colleagues of giving cops the green light to seize minorities for minor infractions in the hope that the detention “will lead to bigger and better things.”
One of the car's four occupants, Randy Johnson, was charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm after officers noticed a gun.
The court rejected Johnson's argument that the Milwaukee “Street Crimes Unit” violated the Fourth Amendment because they hadn't observed the car long enough to discern whether it was illegally parked within 15 feet of a cross walk or whether it was legally discharging passengers.
Officers don't need to negate every possible defense before investigating a reasonable suspicion that a traffic offense is being committed, the court said in an opinion by Judge Frank H. Easterbrook.
Moreover, even though the police “did more than just stroll up,” a claim of excessive force or racial profiling—neither of which was asserted in this case—is best corrected by a civil suit, not application of the exclusionary rule, the court said.
Judge Joel M. Flaum joined the opinion, but Judge David F. Hamilton dissented, arguing that the rule allowing pretext traffic stops shouldn't be extended to mere parking infractions.
The phenomenon of police stopping motorists for “driving while black,” is well-documented, he said.
“In this case, we seem to be taking the further step of enabling police seizures for ‘parking while black.' ”
The Federal Defender Services of Eastern Wisconsin, Milwaukee, represented Johnson. The U.S. Attorney's Office in Milwaukee represented the government.
To contact the reporter on this story: Lance J. Rogers in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the editor responsible for this story: C. Reilly Larson at email@example.com
All Bloomberg BNA treatises are available on standing order, which ensures you will always receive the most current edition of the book or supplement of the title you have ordered from Bloomberg BNA’s book division. As soon as a new supplement or edition is published (usually annually) for a title you’ve previously purchased and requested to be placed on standing order, we’ll ship it to you to review for 30 days without any obligation. During this period, you can either (a) honor the invoice and receive a 5% discount (in addition to any other discounts you may qualify for) off the then-current price of the update, plus shipping and handling or (b) return the book(s), in which case, your invoice will be cancelled upon receipt of the book(s). Call us for a prepaid UPS label for your return. It’s as simple and easy as that. Most importantly, standing orders mean you will never have to worry about the timeliness of the information you’re relying on. And, you may discontinue standing orders at any time by contacting us at 1.800.960.1220 or by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Put me on standing order at a 5% discount off list price of all future updates, in addition to any other discounts I may quality for. (Returnable within 30 days.)
Notify me when updates are available (No standing order will be created).
This Bloomberg BNA report is available on standing order, which ensures you will all receive the latest edition. This report is updated annually and we will send you the latest edition once it has been published. By signing up for standing order you will never have to worry about the timeliness of the information you need. And, you may discontinue standing orders at any time by contacting us at 1.800.372.1033, option 5, or by sending us an email to email@example.com.
Put me on standing order
Notify me when new releases are available (no standing order will be created)