“Cops Need a Search Warrant For Your Car? Nope”
Local police and legal professionals are calling the opinion “big news.”
“This is a significant change in long-standing Pennsylvania criminal law, and it is a good one,” Lancaster County District Attorney Craig Stedman said Wednesday afternoon.
Under prior law, an officer who smells marijuana inside a car, for example, could only search the car with the driver’s consent — or if illegal substances were in plain view. (Federal officers, like FBI or ATF agents, can search, regardless.)
Now, based on the opinion, it only takes reasonable probable cause for an officer to go ahead with a search without a warrant.
“The prerequisite for a warrantless search of a motor vehicle is probable cause to search,” McCaffery writes in the opinion. “We adopt the federal automobile exception… which allows police officers to search a motor vehicle when there is probable cause to do so…”
Previously, a warrantless search was only allowed if “exigent circumstances” existed, the opinion states.
“This case gives the police simpler guidelines to follow and (it) finally and clearly renders our law consistent with established federal law,” Stedman said.
“It is a ruling that helps law enforcement as they continue to find people in possession of illegal drugs,” New Holland police Lt. Jonathan Heisse said Wednesday.
While police rejoice over what’s been a lasting issue, citizens might not be as thrilled.
“It’s an expanding encroachment of government power,” defense attorney Jeffrey Conrad said Wednesday morning, while reviewing the 62-page opinion. “It’s a protection we had two days ago, that we don’t have today. It’s disappointing from a citizens’ rights perspective.”
Fourth Amendment? Posh. The Constitution is living and breathing, you see. And right now, it’s breathing in the glorious Utopian air of authoritarianism and judicial oligarchy in support of a police state, and it is revived and refreshed!
Funny how that works, isn’t it? By turning a settled, intended letter into a shambling zombie, the courts and politicians are able to find ways to determine how “reasonable” people can be convinced that circumventing essential rights is part of the Greater Good.
And really, what could possibly go wrong?