|High Court backs cops|
|Written by APB staff|
The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that police can conduct searches and seize evidence after arrests that may have violated state law. The high court ruling comes from a case out of Portsmouth, Virginia, where city detectives seized crack cocaine from a motorist after arresting him for a minor traffic offense. David Lee Moore was pulled over for driving on a suspended license.
The violation is a minor crime in Virginia and calls for the police to issue a court summons and to let the driver go. But instead the detectivesarrested Moore.
Prosecutors in the case said that drugs taken from him in a subsequent search could be used against him as evidence. "We reaffirm against a novel challenge what we have signaled for half a century," Justice Antonin Scalia wrote for the court.
Scalia said that when officers have probable cause to believe a person had committed a crime in their presence, the Fourth Amendment permits them to make an arrest and to search the suspect to safeguard evidence and to ensure their own safety. Moore was convicted on drug charges and sentenced to three and a half years in prison.
The Virginia Supreme Court had previously ruled that the police should have released Moore, and as a result, they could not lawfully conduct a search. State law, the Virginia Court said, restricted the officers to issuing a ticket.
Virginia courts had dismissed the indictment against Moore. But the Virginia attorney general said an arrest was reasonable, under the constitutional definition, if the officers have probable cause to believe a suspect has committed a crime. Moore's attorney argued that the Fourth Amendment permits a search only after a lawful state arrest.
In a concurring opinion, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said she found more support for Moore's position in previous court cases than the rest of the Supreme Court had.
The Bush administration and attorneys general from 18 states had supported the Virginia prosecutors. The Supreme court decision was unanimous.