Monday, May 26, 2014

Court of Appeals Adopts Truthiness, Hates Your God

To a great extent it has always been the rule in the courtroom that the police officer lies by making what he knew at the time he acted sound more in line with the law.  They're trained to do so.

Every once in a while they forget or can't, and the motion to suppress is granted and the case goes away.

The Court of Appeals has apparently decided that judges are allowing this to happen far too often.  So they released the mind-numbing State v. Perez-Jungo opinion.

This was the law:

An investigative detention is permissible if it is based upon specific articulable facts which justify reasonable suspicion that the detained person is, has been, or is about to be engaged in criminal activity. Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 26 (1968).

Old law, sorta.  Well known from law school.  In this case, cop thinks car abandoned, goes to check it out and whoa, not abandoned.  So.  Ok.  Then comes the next legal nugget, again, pretty well understood and understandable:

Thus, the length and scope of the initial investigatory detention may be lawfully expanded if there exist objective and specific articulable facts that justify reasonable suspicion that the detained person is, has been, or is about to engage in criminal activity. State v. Gomez, 144 Idaho 865, 869, 172 P.3d 1140, 1144 (Ct. App. 2007).

So if cop then saw the occupant of the car had a needle in his arm, he could go on asking questions.  That didn't happen here.  And so the law got weird:

Just as with probable cause to search a vehicle, reasonable suspicion does not require a belief that any specific criminal activity is afoot to justify an investigative detention; instead, all that is required is a showing of objective and specific articulable facts giving reason to believe that the individual has been or is about to be involved in some criminal activity.

The Court claims this is true of probable cause for searches as well, and that various other courts agree with them.  No.  Not really.  They all spoke to the fact that you don't need "direct evidence" of a particular crime.  In other words, facts that support an officer being suspicious of a number of different crimes are good enough- such as the smell of marijuana.  So no one has ever said you don't need to be able to articulate what kind of criminal activity you think is going on.  Because that just sound like guess-work.  And cops are not allowed to rely on a hunch.

So what incredible fact pattern produced this horrific law?

The circumstances known to the officer here provided reasonable suspicion to believe that some criminal activity was afoot.The officer testified that, after the concerns justifying his initial contact with Perez-Jungo had been resolved, he suspected that Perez-Jungo might be involved in impaired driving or illegal drug activity.  Specifically, the officer came upon Perez-Jungo's vehicle parked on a gravel road in a remote area late at night. Although this was insufficient alone to create reasonable suspicion, officers are not required to ignore the suspicious nature of relevant surrounding circumstances, such as location or time. See, e.g., Illinois v. Wardlow, 528 U.S. 119, 124 (2000) (noting that police may consider location, even when not in a high-crime area, when determining if reasonable suspicion exists); State v. McAfee, 116 Idaho 1007, 1010, 783 P.2d 874, 877 (Ct. App. 1989) (agreeing that “unusual activities at unusual hours” can contribute to establish reasonable suspicion, but noting that citizens do not become prospective detainees because they lawfully drive and park late at night). The officer also observed that Perez-Jungo had bloodshot, glassy eyes. Again, the presence of bloodshot and glassy eyes is not alone sufficient to provide reasonable suspicion. Grigg, 149 Idaho at 364, 233 P.3d at 1286. However, it nonetheless supports suspicion of both intoxication and illegal drug activity. See State v. Sheldon, 139 Idaho 980, 985, 88 P.3d 1220, 1225 (Ct. App. 2003) (noting that glassy, bloodshot eyes not caused by alcohol consumption can contribute to reasonable suspicion of illegal drug activity). 

So what do we have?  A Latino (gasp!) in a car in a remote location on a gravel road late at night with bloodshot, glassy eyes. (Chief Judge Gutierrez signed of on this piece of shit opinion, so we have to assume the obvious racism was.. lost on him?) (P.S. Judge Melanson, the author, is a really nice guy, but I don't think much of his legal prowess in criminal matters and I see a pattern in his cases of siding with the state, although not as bad as one of his fellow judges.)

Did I mention racism?  Here comes the piece de resistance:

Finally, the officer observed a Santa Muerte statuette on the dashboard of Perez-Jungo’s vehicle. The officer testified that, based on his training and experience, Santa Muerte is a patron saint for drug traffickers.

Oh yes my friends.  Santa Muerte.  Patron Saint of Drug Traffickers!  Oh no wait, she's the center of what is often described as a cult with millions of members, tens of thousands living in the USA, one that is at odds with the Catholic Church and the authorities and thus attractive to many members of the working class.

So now we know why Gutierrez could give less of a shit.  Santa Muerte is, tis true, associated with a lot of criminality.  But moreover, she's an embarrassment to every good Catholic, like our Chief.

In a footnote, the Court says they will not hear argument on why that statute couldn't be used as reasonable suspicion.  That argument would most certainly have been the First Amendment.  Who knows if this was raised below or not.  The Court has a point to make, and it won't be dragged into recognizing that what it is doing is making a mockery of constitutional protections.

The opinion then ends with one more illogical claim: that if the officer thought Perez-Jungo was under the influence, it made perfect sense to question him and look around with a flashlight for ten minutes till other cops arrived who I guess had better eyesight and spotted the cocaine just sitting there in the car.  Because that's how you prove a guy is under the influence.  Questioning and looking around at the inside of his car.  Not field sobriety tests, which as we now know, are meaningless anyway.

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