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Wednesday, June 19, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Justices Uphold Searches In Illegal Arrest Cases

WASHINGTON (CN) - The U.S. Supreme Court held that police may conduct searches and seizures of evidence after arresting someone based on probable cause, even if the arrest violates state law.

The justices unanimously ruled that officers in Portsmouth, Va., did not violate the Fourth Amendment rights of David Lee Moore - whose nickname is "Chubs" - by arresting him for possessing 16 grams of crack cocaine after they pulled him over for driving with a suspended license.

Under Virginia law, the officers should have given him a citation and summons. Instead, they arrested him for possessing crack with the intent to distribute. After an unsuccessful motion to suppress the drug evidence, Moore was convicted of the drug charge and sentenced to five years in prison.

The state high court reversed his conviction, ruling that the Fourth Amendment does not permit officers to arrest someone they should have only ticketed under state law.

But the U.S. Supreme Court took a different view:

"In a long line of cases, we have said that when an officer has probable cause to believe a person committed even a minor crime in his presence, the balancing of private and public interests is not in doubt," Justice Scalia wrote. "The arrest is constitutionally reasonable."

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