Zero tolerance enforcement comes with a twist this year[replacer_a]
Published: Fri, June 12, 2009 @ 12:00 a.m.
Zero tolerance enforcement comes with a twist this year
Youngstown police and the Ohio State Highway Patrol are once again joined in an effort aimed at making the city a better place to live by pursuing a zero tolerance policy for traffic violations.
And along the way, Police Chief Jimmy Hughes hopes to nab more than bad drivers, he’s looking for bad guys of all stripes.
“We hope to stop the cars for the violations and search for evidence of any other wrongdoing,” Hughes said.
Police and the patrol pursued a similar strategy last year and it met with some success.
But it may be a little tougher this year.
There’s been a notable change in what the Supreme Court of the United States views as a legitimate search of a motor vehicle following a routine traffic stop.
“Any violation is fair game, and we openly admit that we are looking for whatever evidence we can get,” Hughes said.
And, indeed, writing traffic tickets will be just as easy in 2009 as it was in 2008. Searching the vehicle without a warrant — not so much.
What has changed
Two months ago, an odd coalition of Supreme Court justices declared that “countless individuals guilty of nothing more serious than a traffic violation” have had their vehicles searched in violation of their rights. They issued a ruling that set aside a 1981 opinion that had given police broad authority to search cars whenever they made an arrest.
Justice John Paul Stevens, speaking for the court, said that merely arresting a driver does not “provide a police entitlement” to search the vehicle without a warrant. He was joined by Justices Antonin Scalia, David H. Souter, Clarence Thomas and Ruth Bader Ginsburg
The case involved an Arizona man who was arrested for driving with a suspended license. A search of his car, which was parked in his driveway, uncovered a gun and cocaine in a jacket in the back seat.
The conviction was thrown out by an appeals court and the Supreme Court upheld that decision.
That is not to say that Youngstown police and the state patrol will be wasting their time.
Just getting more officers into cruisers and on the streets will have a beneficial effect. Arresting traffic violators makes the roads safer for everyone. And, to the extent that they can do so without violating the Constitution’s protection against unreasonable searches, police are likely to find some evidence of other crimes.
Good law enforcement and the Constitution are not mutually exclusive. Indeed, you can’t have one without the other. But achieving the balance can be a challenge.