In our last entry, we explored the issue of police traffic stops and how they so often end up leading to serious criminal charges. As we noted, such cases are of events. What such actions should trigger, though, are questions about whether police overstepped their authority and acted in violation of the Fourth Amendment right against illegal search and seizure.
What’s at stake is not just the protection of individual rights of Missouri residents, but the defense of the Constitution.
This particular subject remains on our radar in light of events reported earlier this month out of Hannibal. According to the police report, officers with the Anti Crime Enforcement Squad, or ACES unit, pulled over a couple in a car one recent evening.
The reason police gave for the stop was an unspecified “license violation.” But, as part of the stop, officers conducted searches. By the end of the encounter, both subjects in the car were under arrest on a variety of drug-related and other charges.
The question some legal observers might pose is whether this wasn’t a case of overreach. A news story in the Hannibal Herald-Whig from last year notes that ACES is a 10-year-old unit. Its focus is on investigating alleged narcotic distribution and gathering intelligence about the drug trade in the Hannibal area.
Considering the special nature of its mission, it seems fair to wonder why the ACES unit was out making traffic stops in the first place. Was the basis of the stop legitimate? Did officers have a warrant to conduct a search? Did they ask and receive consent from the driver for their actions? Or was the claim of an apparent license violation a vague and convenient explanation to rationalize everything?
Experienced attorneys know such questions deserve to be asked and answered.