from the cops lie department
The courts have repeatedly said pretext judgments are a cool way to participate in fishing expeditions with law enforcement. But there are a few caveats.
First, there must be a reason for arresting the person, even if that reason largely exists in imaginative readings of local statutes by police. Second, the stop cannot be unreasonably extended past the point of his goal. When you hand out a citation or tell someone they’re free to go, they’re free to go. You can’t keep them detained while trying to find other ways to entice them into warrantless searches.
Finally, when you are asked to defend yourself in court, your pretext better hold on. And you better make sure you don’t record evidence that contradicts your assertions. It’s a fatal mistake, and one that appears to have been made by two Louisiana cops sued by the people they arrested, with the support of the Institute for Justice.
Mario Rosales and his girlfriend were driving through Alexandria, Louisiana when the cops decided to arrest them. Prior to this stop, Rosales had stopped at a red light, signaled his intention to turn left, and made a legal left turn (with his turn signal on) when the light turned green. All of this was watched dispassionately by the dash cam of Officer Samuel Terrell’s SUV.
That’s what happened next, as Rosales recounts court case [PDF]:
About 10 seconds after that, the light turned green. With his left turn signal flashing, Mario legally turned left through the intersection, onto Dorchester Drive. The police SUV followed. As the SUV was in the middle of the intersection, officers activated its headlights and shot Mario and Gracie.
Contradicted by clear video evidence, officers would later claim to have stopped the car for not reporting.
Mario immediately stopped and waited in his car. Gracie also remained locked in the car.
Constable Samuel Terrell exited the SUV and stood in the front of the police vehicle. He told Mario to get out of the car and come to him.
here is the clear video evidence. The thing Terrell said was the reason for the shutdown (no signal) is clearly contradicted less than 35 seconds into the recording:
And here’s what followed the fake shutdown, as told by the Institute for Justice:
Over the next 20 minutes, two police officers searched Mario and questioned him and his girlfriend not only about where they live and work, but also about a litany of drugs, their past interactions with the police and their feelings about the US Constitution. All without a single reason to believe that Mario or Gracie were dangerous or involved in drugs or that they had committed any crime. They weren’t; They are not ; and they hadn’t. When Mario and Gracie asked why they were arrested, the officers replied that Mario had not used his turn signal. But several tapes of the incident clearly show that Mario used his turn signal. When asked why they were asking Mario and Gracie about drugs, the officers’ response was that they were “just curious.”
A totally unconstitutional arrest, followed by an unconstitutional detention. Multiple tapes show not only that Rosales activated his turn signal, but that the day was clear and bright and nothing obstructed the officer’s view of Rosales’ car or his turn signal.
Officers also denied Rosales’ request that his girlfriend record the traffic stop. Officers pointed to their body cameras, saying that was all the footage anyone would need. Rosales logically pointed out that he would like to have his own recording of the arrest, given how often officers’ recordings disappear after rights are violated. Rosales’ concern was not theoretical. This had already happened to him.
Mario was criminally assaulted by an off-duty officer in Roswell, New Mexico in 2018. See Rosales v. Bradshaw et al., 2021 WL 5356668, CIV 20-751 JB/JHR at *3 (DNM November 17, 2021), appeal filed, no. 22 2027 (10th Cir.). Mario was unable to obtain a body camera or dash cam from the officer or his employer.
Rosales was allowed to use his phone to access insurance information, showing that cops weren’t worried he was in possession of his phone. They also had no reason to believe that his girlfriend’s access to his phone would pose a threat to them. But they refused to let either save that stop.
Twenty-one minutes of bullshit, officers refusing to let the couple record the stop, breaking them up so each officer could ask them similar questions about drug possession, continuous reminders that they had been ‘legally stopped’ (they hadn’t), culminating in an officer’s verbal expression of disappointment when the records checks turned out to be clean.
Officer Lewis quickly asked Officer Terrell, “So why are you going to write to him?”
Officer Terrell: “At this time, failing to report. Um, since he’s going back there and still has his residence in New Mexico….
Officer Lewis told Officer Terrell, “I would err on the side of caution on this”, meaning that Officer Terrell should, despite his uncertainty that Mario had violated registration laws, cite Mario for failing to update his license and registration to reflect where he is staying in Louisiana.
After a pause, Officer Lewis said he had no reason to run their dog over Mario’s car and that he “really didn’t see a lot of clues from him”. [Mario] not be completely truthful.
Officer Lewis quickly advised Officer Terrell, “So yeah, I’d get the PC to shut down and there’s also, uh, his id update failure, and you can also add failed registration.”
The dispatcher quickly radioed the officers to give them the results of the background checks: “Negative all over both.”
Officer Lewis expressed his disappointment: “Aaaw. What are the odds for that?!” He quickly repeated, “Aw man!”
They went fishing and came home with nothing, big or small, to fry. And the only response was disappointment that an unwarranted check of records failed to provide the probable cause necessary to excuse the rights violations the agents had already engaged in.
As the lawsuit points out, that’s a lot of violations. A handful of Fourth Amendment violations interspersed with First Amendment violations because officers refused to let the couple file the arrest.
Officers will definitely apply for qualified immunity. They may get a partial reward, depending on their ability to claim that denying the couple access to their phone was just them to keep them safe during this shutdown. But it’s hard to see how they escape the rest. The reason given for the stoppage is clearly contradicted by the recording. And everything that happened after that had nothing to do with solving the alleged traffic violation. In fact, it seems that the agents immediately abandoned their task in the hope of having their drug hunches confirmed.
This is a flagrant violation of established law and the only thing justifying the triggering of the traffic stop is an undeniable lie. Good luck with that, morons. This lawsuit should go ahead and these officers will hopefully have to explain to a jury why they decided to violate a bunch of rights rather than allow someone who obeys the rules of the road to continue driving. in their city without incident.