Tag Archives: Supreme Court

LA Supreme Court: It’s Reasonable to Believe “Give Me a Lawyer Dog” was Request for a Dog Who is a Lawyer

Lawyer Dog Louisiana Supreme Court Canine Attorney

Lawyer Dog should really ask Grumpy Judge to recuse herself. #JusSayin

Recently, the Louisiana Supreme Court issued a ruling on a motion to suppress evidence against Warren Demesme, who is currently awaiting trial in New Orleans. By a 6-1 majority the court denied that motion, which maintained that statements Demesme had made should be thrown because the police had ignored his request for legal counsel during interrogations.

What’s gotten a lot of attention (and rightfully so) since that ruling is the courts’ contention that Demesme’s request was ambiguous and unclear. But even more so for the reasoning behind the ruling. Orleans Parish Assistant District Attorney Kyle Daly argued in his response to the motion that Demesme’s statement, “just give me a lawyer dog,” could be misinterpreted by a “reasonable officer” based on the use of the words “lawyer dog.”

In a brief accompanying the decision, Louisiana Associate Supreme Court Justice Scott J. Crichton agreed that the defendant’s use of “lawyer dog” could be misconstrued to mean something else and therefore did not qualify as a request for counsel.

Via the Washington Post:

Warren Demesme, then 22, was being interrogated by New Orleans police in October 2015 after two young girls claimed he had sexually assaulted them. It was the second time he’d been brought in, and he was getting a little frustrated, court records show. He had repeatedly denied the crime. Finally, Demesme told the detectives:

“This is how I feel, if y’all think I did it, I know that I didn’t do it so why don’t you just give me a lawyer dog ’cause this is not what’s up.” The punctuation, arguably critical to Demesme’s use of the sobriquet “dog,” was provided by the Orleans Parish District Attorney’s office in a brief, and then adopted by Louisiana Associate Supreme Court Justice Scott J. Crichton.

Demesme subsequently made admissions to the crime, prosecutors said, and was charged with aggravated rape and indecent behavior with a juvenile. He is being held in the Orleans Parish jail awaiting trial.

The public defender for Orleans Parish, Derwyn D. Bunton, took on Demesme’s case and filed a motion to suppress Demesme’s statement. In a court brief, Bunton noted that police are legally bound to stop questioning anyone who asks for a lawyer. “Under increased interrogation pressure,” Bunton wrote, “Mr. Demesme invokes his right to an attorney, stating with emotion and frustration, ‘Just give me a lawyer.’” The police did not stop their questioning, Bunton argued, “when Mr. Demesme unequivocally and unambiguously asserted his right to counsel.”

Louisiana Associate Supreme Court Justice Scott J. Crichton

Louisiana Associate Supreme Court Justice Scott J. Crichton

Orleans Parish Assistant District Attorney Kyle Daly responded in his brief that Demesme’s “reference to a lawyer did not constitute an unambiguous invocation of his right to counsel, because the defendant communicated that whether he actually wanted a lawyer was dependent on the subjective beliefs of the officers.” Daly added, “A reasonable officer under the circumstances would have understood, as [the detectives] did, that the defendant only might be invoking his right to counsel.”

Bunton’s motion to throw out Demesme’s statement was rejected by the trial court and the appeals court, so he took it to the state Supreme Court. The Supreme Court, in a ruling issued last Friday and first reported by Reason, could have denied the appeal without issuing a written ruling, which it does in most cases. But Justice Crichton decided to write a brief concurrence “to spotlight the very important constitutional issue regarding the invocation of counsel during a law enforcement interview.”

Crichton noted that Louisiana case law has ruled that “if a suspect makes a reference to an attorney that is ambiguous or equivocal . . . the cessation of questioning is not required.” Crichton then concluded: “In my view, the defendant’s ambiguous and equivocal reference to a ‘lawyer dog’ does not constitute an invocation of counsel that warrants termination of the interview.”


There’s a lot of things wrong with that decision. The most obvious issue is that they didn’t actually provide him with a dog who is a lawyer, as they claim they thought he had requested. It’s probably not the wisest move to request a dog to represent you in court, but if he’s a good boy and graduated from an accredited law school, who am I to cast aspersions?

Of course, that’s kind of the biggest problem with the “logic” of this ruling. They couldn’t give him a “lawyer dog” because, outside of memes on the internets, it’s not an actual thing. At this point in history, not one single dog has ever managed to pass the bar exam. Not Lassie, not Rin Tin Tin, not Benji, not even Snoopy. Scooby Doo is way to high to even think about taking the SAT’s, let alone the LSAT’s, and don’t even get me started on Marmaduke.

If any dog could have pulled it off, it obviously would have been Brian Griffin, but he died tragically after eating chocolate out of the garbage years ago. So, he’s not available right now.

What it boils down to is, if somebody asks for legal council, as is their constitutional right under the Sixth Amendment, you shouldn’t just be able to pretend you didn’t understand them because they used some (not uncommon) slang. In fact, if for some reason they ask for a “lawyer dog,” but there aren’t any available (or willing to work pro bone-o), then you give them a lawyer human instead.

It’s hard to have a lot of faith in the U.S. Injustice System, especially after rulings like this (not to mention all the coerced confessions and false convictions they allow for). However, you would hope that some sense of common decency and shame would compel the next appeals court this goes in front of to render a proper ruling on this nonsense.

I have a suspicion this might be a big part of the reason why the State of Louisiana has the highest incarceration rate in the entire world.

Booking Fees and Incarceration Costs; The Latest Revenue Generation Tools For Money Hungry Governments

The Supreme Court is preparing to consider the legality of a couple of new methods the police and courts have devised to generate revenue for the State. Several states, including Minnesota, Colorado, and Kentucky, have begun implementing fees and “incarceration cost” reimbursement charges against those who are arrested as a way to raise money for police and governmental budgets.

Much like their earlier forerunner to policing for profit, asset forfeiture and seizure laws, these fees are not based on a conviction and many times those subjected to them don’t even end up having charges filed against them. Another similarity is that the process for recouping them are either non-existent or so difficult or expensive that it generally makes it not worth the effort and most people simply allow the theft to stand.

Of course, that’s the point, since the policies have nothing to do with justice, but rather are solely intended to raise revenue for the State and its enforcement structures.

Via the New York Times:

Corey Statham had $46 in his pockets when he was arrested in Ramsey County, Minn., and charged with disorderly conduct. He was released two days later, and the charges were dismissed.

But the county kept $25 of Mr. Statham’s money as a “booking fee.” It returned the remaining $21 on a debit card subject to an array of fees. In the end, it cost Mr. Statham $7.25 to withdraw what was left of his money.

The Supreme Court will soon consider whether to hear Mr. Statham’s challenge to Ramsey County’s fund-raising efforts, which are part of a national trend to extract fees and fines from people who find themselves enmeshed in the criminal justice system.

Kentucky bills people held in its jails for the costs of incarcerating them, even if all charges are later dismissed. In Colorado, five towns raise more than 30 percent of their revenue from traffic tickets and fines. In Ferguson, Mo., “city officials have consistently set maximizing revenue as the priority for Ferguson’s law enforcement activity,” a Justice Department report found last year.

An unusual coalition of civil rights organizations, criminal defense lawyers and conservative and libertarian groups have challenged these sorts of policies, saying they confiscate private property without constitutional protections and lock poor people into a cycle of fines, debts and jail.

The Supreme Court has already agreed to hear a separate challenge to a Colorado law that makes it hard for criminal defendants whose convictions were overturned to obtain refunds of fines and restitution, often amounting to thousands of dollars. That case, Nelson v. Colorado, will be argued on Jan. 9.

The Colorado law requires people who want their money back to file a separate lawsuit and prove their innocence by clear and convincing evidence.

The sums at issue are smaller in Ramsey County, which includes St. Paul. But they are taken from people who have merely been arrested. Some of them will never be charged with a crime. Others, like Mr. Statham, will have the charges against them dismissed. Still others will be tried but acquitted.

It is all the same to the county, which does not return the $25 booking fee even if the arrest does not lead to a conviction. Instead, it requires people like Mr. Statham to submit evidence to prove they are entitled to get their money back.

When the case was argued last year before the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit in St. Paul, a lawyer for the county acknowledged that its process was in tension with the presumption of innocence.

“There is some legwork involved,” the lawyer, Jason M. Hiveley said, but noted that it is possible for blameless people to get their $25 back. “They can do it as soon as they have the evidence that they haven’t been found guilty.”

The legwork proved too much for Mr. Statham. He never got his $25 back.

He did get a debit card for the remaining $21. But there was no practical way to extract his cash without paying some kind of fee. Among them: $1.50 a week for “maintenance” of the unwanted card, starting after 36 hours; $2.75 for using an A.T.M. to withdraw money; $3 for transferring the balance to a bank account; and $1.50 for checking the balance.

In its appeals court brief, the county said the debit cards were provided “for the convenience of the inmates,” who might find it hard to cash a check.

Mr. Statham is represented by Michael A. Carvin, a prominent conservative lawyer who has argued Supreme Court caseschallenging the Affordable Care Act and fees charged by public unions.

Mr. Carvin said the county’s motives were not rooted in solicitude for the people it had arrested. “Revenue-starved local governments are increasingly turning toward fees like Ramsey County’s in order to bridge their budgetary gaps,” he wrote in a Supreme Court brief. “But the unilateral decision of a single police officer cannot possibly justify summarily confiscating money.”

“Providing a profit motive to make arrests,” he said, “gives officers an incentive to make improper arrests.”

Obviously, these debit cards with their outrageous fees are anything but convenient. Also, while it’s beside the point from the start, the notion that an arbitrary fee based on no crime having been committed is valid because in the eyes of the courts it is not a large fee represents a unnecessary and undue hardship for many poor people that are barely making it on what they have already.

Update: Investigation Opened Into Misconduct and Fraud by Wayne County Sheriff Dean Finch

The following post was shared with the CopBlock Network by Bryan Jeffers of South East Missouri (SEMO) CopBlock, via the CopBlock.org Submissions Page. It is an update of a previous submission about potential misconduct and fraud by Sheriff Dean Finch of Wayne County, Missouri. This post was originally published at the website of SEMO CopBlock under the title, “Did Wayne County Sheriff Dean Finch violate the Hatch Act?

In addition, Bryan stated:

This Email was sent to me right before I shared this story.

The U.S. Office of Special Counsel has opened a case file and started an investigation into Sheriff Dean Finch’s misconduct. It would be great if Dean is charged and convicted of breaking the Hatch Act. It may not land him in prison as we’d prefer, however, it will be justice, no matter how small the punishment may be.


Click for full size image.

Did Wayne County Sheriff Dean Finch Violate the Hatch Act?

To understand if Dean Finch violated the Hatch Act we first have to understand what the Hatch Act is about. The Hatch Act of 1939 was named after Senator Carl Hatch a Democrat from New Mexico who wrote it. The Hatch Act is officially, an act to prevent pernicious political activities. The act was amended in 2012. As such, we will focus on the 2012 amended version.

In 2012 President Barack Obama signed the “Hatch Act Modernization Act of 2012.” It modified penalties under the Hatch Act to allow for disciplinary actions in addition to removal for federal employees; clarified the applicability to the District of Columbia of provisions that cover state and local governments; limited the prohibition on state and local employees running for elective office to employees whose salary is paid completely by federal loans or grants. (The complete law can be found here.)

According to subsection 7324. Political activities on duty; prohibitions

PictureSEMO Cop Block obtained evidence of Dean Finch allegedly violating three of four prohibitions. In the picture provided, Dean Finch is seen at the Ozark Heritage Festival, campaigning in uniform with badge and belt present, with a county issued shirt on.

According to Subsection 7324, “An An employee may not engage in political activity, while the employee is on duty. As you can see from the picture provided the Sheriff is on duty, and in uniform.  Both of the accusations could be covered by Subsection 7324 A(1), and A(3).

In the festival’s parade, Dean Finch allegedly violated the Hatch Act early the same day by campaigning in a parade while he was driving the vehicle that he leases to the county, and is paid $0.54/mile when he drives it (read more here)
Did Dean add the mileage he drove during the parade to his mileage log he is paid from? According to the subsection 7324 – (4) it is prohibited “using any vehicle owned or leased by the Government of the United States or any agency or instrumentality thereof.” Hence Dean drove his leased vehicle during a campaigning session by driving the county leased vehicle throughout the “Ozark Heritage Festival” with a sign the read “Wayne County sheriff Dean Finch” on both sides of the vehicle. Isn’t this a violation of the Hatch Act?
We at SEMO Cop Block believe so. Dean Finch should be charged, convicted, and punished to the fullest extent of the law. According to subsection 732:

Dean Finch should be subject to removal and not allowed to hold any elected office for a period not to exceed 5 years. A fine not to exceed $1,000.

SEMO Cop Block has not just written up this article, we have filed a complaint with The U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC). (You can read the complaint here) The OSC is an independent federal investigative and prosecutorial agency. Their basic authorities come from four federal statutes: the Civil Service Reform Act, the Whistleblower Protection Act, the Hatch Act, and the Uniformed Services Employment & Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA). The OSC would be the one in charge of investigating the Hatch Act complaints.

If you believe Dean Finch or anyone else has violated the Hatch Act, the OSC contact information is:

U.S. Office of Special Counsel
1730 M Street, NW
Suite 218
Washington, DC 20036
Hatch Act Hotline:           (202) 254-3650 or (800) 854-2824
Hatch Act Fax:                 (202) 254-3700
E-mail:                              [email protected]
Website:                          www.osc.gov

The U.S. Office of Special Counsel has opened a case file and started an investigation into Sheriff Dean Finch’s misconduct. It would be great if Dean is charged and convicted of breaking the Hatch Act. It may not land him in prison as we’d prefer, however, it will be justice no matter how small the punishment may be.

The ‘NATIONAL SHERIFFS’ ASSOCIATION” has been trying to change the law to not include sheriffs, but has failed in every attempt they’ve made. In a letter they wrote in 2012, they say:

“HB 498 would clarify current law to allow sheriffs, in their official capacity, to participate in political activities. Moreover, it also clarifies allowable political activities of a sheriff to include, but not limited to, endorsing a candidate through print, radio or TV ads, speaking at political events, attending or sponsoring fundraisers.” (full letter here)

The bill they asked for was referred to the Subcommittee on Federal Workforce, U.S. Postal Service, and Labor Policy. The bill has never made it out of the subcommittee.

The Supreme Court has several times declined to hear challenges to the act and has twice upheld its constitutionality. In a 1947 case brought by the CIO, a divided court found that Congress had properly exercised its authority as long as it had not affected voting rights. Then again In 1973, in a case brought by the National Association of Letter Carriers. A 6 to 3 decision found the act is neither too broad nor unclear.
The Hatch Act is there to prevent people who are paid in part or completely by the Federal Government from campaigning in uniform or while on duty. The Supreme Court has ruled twice on its fairness and broadness. Congress did not vote or discuss the bill brought to them by the National Sheriffs’ Association.

– Bryan Jeffers
   SEMO CopBlock


Las Vegas Cops Demand ID, Attempt to Intimidate, Then Issue Threat When Refused

The videos and description within this post were shared with the CopBlock Network by a reader from Las Vegas named Carter, via the CopBlock.org Submissions Page.

The videos included with this post begin with a group of Animal Control officers attempting to get a Carter to provide them with his identity and allow them access to his dogs. The reason given to justify that is that they received a report of a kid being bit by a dog five days earlier. When Carter refuses to do so without them providing some sort of probable cause that the dogs involved were his, the Animal Control officers call the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department for backup.

A pair of LVMPD officers arrive and also begin demanding ID from Carter, incorrectly telling him that he is required by law to tell them his identity. Instead, he cites the requirement for a legal detention, per the Supreme Court ruling in “Terry vs. Ohio,” that they have probable cause to believe he is either committing, is about to commit, or has committed a crime.

Of course, in Nevada you are not required to identify yourself to the police unless you have been legally detained or are under arrest. However, the police are in fact required to give their name and badge number and, in spite of that, every one of them refuse to do so when it is requested.

In the end, having realized that their attempts to intimidate Carter have very badly failed, the half dozen police and animal control officers walk back to their vehicles. In the process, one of the LVMPD gang members threatens Carter saying, “don’t let me catch you jaywalking” and “you better watch yourself.”

Click the banner to submit content to CopBlock.org

Click the banner to submit content to CopBlock.org

If you have a video, personal story involving police misconduct and/or abuse, or commentary about a law enforcement related news story, we would be happy to have you submit it. You can find some advice on how to get your submission published on the CopBlock Network within this post.

Date of Incident: September 27, 2016
Department Involved: Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, Las Vegas City Marshals & Animal Control
LVMPD Phone No.: (702) 828-3111
Animal Control Phone No.: (702) 633-1390

Animal Control officers came to my house and asked for my name and to see my dogs because they had a report of a kid having been bitten five days earlier while riding a bike. I told her she had the wrong residence. She Continued to demand to look at my dogs and for me to tell her my name.

I still refused and then she called police from the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department. When officers from the LVMPD arrived they tried to further intimidate me in to giving them my identity. They continued with their efforts until I cited the requirements for a legal detention (and by extension an obligation to identify oneself in Nevada) under Terry vs. Ohio.

– Carter

Federal Judge Richard Posner Sees No Value in Studying “Outdated” Constitution

According to Judge Richard Posner, of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, the “eighteenth-century guys” responsible for writing the Constitution could never have foreseen modern culture and technology.

Therefore, in his eyes, it’s just a waste of time for judges to study the Constitution and the history behind it, since it’s irrelevant to today.

Those comments came in an article as part of an ongoing series of articles entitled the “Supreme Court Breakfast Table,” which bills itself as, “An email conversation about the news of the day.” It’s hosted at Slate.com and features a discussion of issues relating to the Supreme Court and the Supreme Court Justices.

Within that post on June 24th, Judge Posner stated:

I see absolutely no value to a judge of spending decades, years, months, weeks, day, hours, minutes, or seconds studying the Constitution, the history of its enactment, its amendments, and its implementation (across the centuries—well, just a little more than two centuries, and of course less for many of the amendments). Eighteenth-century guys, however smart, could not foresee the culture, technology, etc., of the 21st century. Which means that the original Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the post–Civil War amendments (including the 14th), do not speak to today. David Strauss is right: The Supreme Court treats the Constitution like it is authorizing the court to create a common law of constitutional law, based on current concerns, not what those 18th-century guys were worrying about.

In short, let’s not let the dead bury the living.

Nor, according to Mediaite.com, is this the first time Judge Posner has expressed that he gives no fucks about the Constitution and its old-timey ways:

Posner, an influential jurist who has served as a federal judge for thirty-five years, has previously voiced his disregard for the Constitution. “I’m not particularly interested in the 18th Century, nor am I particularly interested in the text of the Constitution. I don’t believe that any document drafted in the 18th century can guide our behavior today,” he said during a 2015 colloquium.

Judge Richard Posner 7th CircuitThis is why the reliance on the courts and the Constitution itself for justice is an exercise in futility. Regardless of what the original founders meant when they wrote it, the people wearing those robes right now are the ones that interpret it now and guess who they work for.

I can give you this little hint if you need it. Whenever you end up in court it will be the same people that guy sitting at the other table works for. It will also be the same people those guys that escorted you into that courtroom work for.

Some of them, like Judge Posner, don’t even pretend to respect the protections the Constitution supposedly provide. Recent rulings essentially eliminating Fourth Amendment protections should be evidence enough that he’s not alone in that disdain.

Supreme Court’s Curtailing of the Fourth Amendment is Admissible Evidence of Police State

Supreme Court Decision Fourth Amendment Cop Block

This post was written by  and originally published at the Center For a Stateless Society (C4SS) under the title “Supreme Court Ruling is Admissible Evidence of Police State.” Posts and other content you think are worth sharing with the Nevada Cop Block can be sent in to us via the NVCopBlock.org Submissions Page.

(Note: This has been posted in its original form and no edits to the original text were made. Some links may have been added within the text and images have been added. In addition, the conclusions expressed within this initial introductory summary represent my own interpretation of what is being stated within Kelly Vee’s own writings.)

In the post below, Kelly Vee discusses the recent Supreme Court ruling in the case of Utah v. Strieff which allowed the inclusion of evidence found during an illegal search to be admitted if it was subsequently found that a warrant existed for someone with the name of the person that had been illegally searched.

Although this has been (rightfully) decried as an invalidation of the Fourth Amendment, essentially encouraging police to profile and illegally detain people in the hopes that they will discover a warrant after the fact. Vee points out why such a decision should not actually be surprising, given the nature and true purpose of the court system.

Supreme Court Ruling is Admissible Evidence of Police State

On Monday, June 20, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that evidence police find during illegal stops is admissible in court. As long as the officer can find some outstanding warrant in your name, the court will excuse the officer’s illegal stop. The Supreme Court’s decision would be disappointing if you expected the Supreme Court to do anything other than serve itself.

Monday’s ruling seems to contradict Mapp v. Ohio, or at least seriously expands the definition of a legal search. In Mapp v. Ohio (1961), the Supreme Court ruled that all evidence obtained through illegal search and seizure in violation of the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution was inadmissible in court. In her scathing dissenting opinion, Justice Sotomayor wrote, “This case allows the police to stop you on the street, demand your identification, and check it for outstanding traffic warrants—even if you are doing nothing wrong.”

American schoolchildren are taught that the Supreme Court is the ultimate check on government power. When the other branches of government get out of hand, the Supreme Court – somehow free from perverse incentives and filled with good will – will step in for the common people. This fairytale designed to boost faith in government is overturned as the Supreme Court stands behind the prison state, yet again.

Should we be angry? Absolutely. Should we be shocked? Absolutely not. Americans should not feel reassured or secure by the final arbiter in the U.S. justice system. Americans are not safe from their government. The notion that the government will check its own power is misguided and naive. The Supreme Court is made up of former Solicitor Generals, Attorney Generals, and prosecutors. Regardless of lifetime tenure, their incentives are far from pure. Individuals appointed by and working for the government, with a lifetime of experience in service of the government, will often side with the government.

The scope of this ruling is not limited to some small subset of violent criminals. Millions of Americans have outstanding arrest warrants. That speeding ticket you forgot to pay is enough to excuse an officer that stops you illegally. Anything the officer finds is admissible in court, as long as they can find a valid (unrelated) warrant with your name on it. In a country where cops murder and get away with it, corruption charges rarely follow through, and the justice system runs rampant with racial (and other) discrimination, one of our few remaining defenses against police misconduct has just been whitewashed to the point of emptiness.

It’s not hard to imagine how this newfound police power will be abused. In the country that incarcerates more people per capita than anywhere else in the world, ahead of countries such as Turkmenistan, Cuba, and El Salvador, millions more wait to be thrown behind bars. The Supreme Court’s ruling expedites the process of putting people in cages by making it even easier for cops to search and arrest people without oversight. All it takes is an unpaid traffic ticket, and no probable cause is necessary for the police to search someone, using anything they find in court.

Police, rarely held accountable for misconduct, now have even less motivation to behave. Even if their stop is illegal and without cause, the evidence they find will work in their favor in court.

The Police State, the Prison State, and the Court System are all a part of the same twisted, monopolized justice system run with perverse incentives at the expense of its constituents. Police abuse their power, the Court affirms their mistakes, and people end up behind bars. Rather than express righteous shock at the recent Court’s decision, we should recognize the natural progression of the State and oppose it at its core. Power seeks power, but if more people understand the root of the problem, we can fight back.

Know Your Rights: Can the Police Make You Get Out of Your Car?

The following post was shared with the CopBlock Network by Omer Jaleel of Jaleel Law in Chicago, IL., via the CopBlock.org Submission Page. Along with the submission, Jaleel included this statement:

I recently wrote an article on my website that I thought would be a great fit for CopBlock.org. The article answers a question that I receive on almost a daily basis at my law firm and I’m guessing that CopBlock.org is the same. That question is whether the police can order you out of your car.

Unfortunately, SCOTUS has held that the police can order someone outside of his or her car based upon officer safety. The article discusses this issue, what the reasoning for the court’s decision was, and what someone can do to protect his or her rights. If you need any additional information about your rights during a traffic stop or are need of a defense lawyer, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Can the Police Make You Get Out of Your Car?

Most encounters with the police occur after a traffic stop and while most traffic stops are routine, the cops are trained to view traffic stops as a potentially dangerous or deadly situation. That view sometimes can result in terrible outcomes, which is why it is imperative that everyone knows their rights.

A situation that arises more often than not is a police officer asking someone to get out of his or her car following a routine traffic stop. While common sense says that being asked by the police to get out of your car after being stopped for something as trivial as an expired registration sticker or not using a turn signal is unreasonable and an invasion of someone’s rights, the United States Supreme Court held otherwise. In a landmark decision, the Supreme Court held that the police can make you get out of your car after a valid traffic stop. This ruling applies to the driver and all the passengers in a car. Because of this ruling in Pennsylvania vs. Mimms, a person must exit their car if ordered to do so by the police.

Background of Pennsylvania vs. Mimms

Mimms involved a case where two Philadelphia police officers stopped a car being driven by Harry Mimms for driving with expired plates. After stopping his car, the police ordered Mimms to step out of his car, which was common practice for the police department. After Mimms complied with the officer’s order, the police observed an unusual bulge in Mimms’ jacket. The police then searched Mimms and discovered a handgun.

Mimms unsuccessfully sought to have the gun suppressed on the grounds the police violated his 4th Amendment rights against unreasonable searches and seizures. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that the police did not have probable cause to order Mimms out of his car and reversed the conviction against him. However, the Supreme Court of the United States agreed to take the case on appeal to answer the question whether the police order to Mimms for him to get out of the car, which was given after Mimms was lawfully stopped for a traffic violation, was reasonable and thus permissible under the Fourth Amendment?

In a 6-3 per curium opinion, SCOTUS held that the police routinely asked drivers who were being ticketed to exit their cars for the safety of the officer. The police stated that it would diminish the chance that person could get something from the car while the police officer is writing the ticket and attack the officer. Also, if the stop was executed in a high traffic area, having the driver stand between the police car and the driver’s car allows the police to conduct the traffic stop away from moving traffic.

Why Can the Police Make You Get Out of Your Car?

The Mimms court held that allowing the police to make a driver exit his car is a nothing more than a “mere inconvenience” to the driver especially when compared to the safety benefits to the police. The court reasoned that since the car was stopped after a valid traffic stop and ordering the driver to get out of the car was a “minimal and reasonable intrusion” of his freedom. The court further held that the search would have occurred regardless if Mimms was out of his car or seated, because the bulge in his jacket was visible while he was seated in the car. The court held that the bulge allowed the police to assume that Mimms was armed and posed a danger to the police. Under these circumstances, the Mimms court held that any cop of “reasonable caution” would likely have conducted the “pat down” of Mimms.


The dissenting opinions in Mimms that were written by Justices Marshall and Stevens argued that the new rule created by Pennsylvania vs. Mimms greatly expanded the police officer’s right in searching an individual that they stopped. The dissenting opinions predicted what would happen, the police were limited in searching an individual only to the extent they could invent a justification for the search based upon officer safety.

After a traffic stop it is imperative that you do everything possible to protect your rights and that can only begin if you know your rights. If stopped by the police for a traffic stop, the officer can order you out of your car without violating your constitutional rights. However, that doesn’t prevent you from doing everything to protect your rights. Remember the interaction as best as you can and write it down, better yet record the interaction.

However, the most important thing you can do is hire a criminal defense attorney who knows what he or she is doing. Not all criminal defense lawyers are fully versed on the 4th amendment and search and seizure law.

The current state of search and seizure law allows a police officer to order a driver and the passengers out of vehicle that is stopped for even a minor traffic violation. However, the law does not require you to answer any questions or to consent to a search of your vehicle. If a police officer orders you out of your car, you must comply and do what the officer orders, but remember to not answer any questions and don’t allow the police officer to search your car.

Questionable FBI Surveillance Aircraft Fleet Outed by Coalition of Journalists, Activists, And Techies

The following post was submitted to the CopBlock Network by Isiah Holmes, who has been featured several times previously on Cop Block, via the CopBlock.org Submissions Page. In this post, Isiah discusses the use of aircraft FBI to conduct surveillance and the role that private citizens (along with the media) played in uncovering and exposing the program’s existence and just how widespread its use is.

(Note: The FBI’s use of surveillance aircraft to spy on activists and protesters was also discussed by Asa J in an earlier post published in August of last year.)

Mice Chasing The Hawk

There exists a variety of stories notorious — amongst those whom it concerns — for their uncanny quality of illuminating hidden plights and unsung heroes. Such tales, unfortunately, rarely experience veneration in modern western society. For the sake of this piece, think not of the many examples of centuries old legends and fables. Instead, accept the challenge of recognizing just one of this variety’s countless modern manifestations. For instance, when a loose coalition of professional and citizen journalists, activists, and techies blew the lid off the FBI’s questionable, nationwide aerial surveillance program. Blew the lid–only to have the story locked into a press loop where it ultimately succumbed to starvation. This piece might be considered a functional revival of the tale.

It began in Baltimore in 2015, after Freddie Gray’s death in police custody and during the subsequent protests and riots. Cameras were everywhere, whether belonging to Baltimore PD, press, bystanders or active civic dissidents. No one, however, anticipated cameras and cell phone collection tech, for that matter, having circled above them for days. International Business Times reports, Benjamin Shayne, leader of the police radio site www.scanbaltimore.com, was among the first to notice unusual air traffic. Shayne took to Twitter: “Anyone know who has been flying the light plane in circles above the city for the past few nights?” The planes, according to IBT, which flew from April 30th-May 2nd 2015, appeared shortly after Baltimore initiated a city-wide curfew.

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Following Benjamin’s tip, a coalition of Twitter and Reddit users, including one former ACLU employee, united to monitor the planes. According to IBT, a trove of data on the aircraft was compiled through their combined talents. Exact flight paths, docking airports, and owners were tracked. The planes were now being watched back.

According to a Washington Post piece, although one plane appeared to lack a tail number, a second was tracked back to “NG Research.” The company’s website boasts of expertise in air quality, aerosol chemistry, and health effects, but speaks not on why its plane was over Baltimore that day.

Once questions started flooding web feeds, the FBI, surprisingly, released a statement glistening with trepidation. “The aircraft,” officials said; according to the Washington Post, “were specifically used to provide high altitude observation of potential criminal activity to enable rapid response by police officials on the ground.” An Improv Online investigation into suspicious planes had–undoubtedly–forced “The Man” to come forward publicly on this “program.” Perhaps it’s safe to say that information, or rather free information, is power.

Due to the government’s reluctance, as well as technology concerns, the ACLU filed several FOIA requests. In tandem with the ACLU’s push, the Associated Press launched their own in depth investigation on the aircraft’s purpose and origin. As it turns out, an entire FBI controlled surveillance-purposed fleet waited for them at the end of the rabbit hole.



The manned planes, carrying both powerful cameras, including infrared cameras, and cell phone data collection technology reputedly operate above cities quite often. All the craft, the Huffpost reports, are superficially attached not to a government program, but to fictitious companies used as fronts. Many sources reported on the infrared camera’s capabilities of literally seeing people inside of homes. The very nature of the technology is rather wide reaching and indiscriminate, meaning non-targets frequently are recorded. A 2001 Supreme Court decision, Kyllo v. United States, Washington Post reports, held using thermal imagers to “see details” inside enclosed buildings without a warrant amounts to an unlawful search.

AP journalists also discovered that despite the program’s capabilities, deployments are rarely approved by a judge. In light of this fact, according to the Huffington Post, FBI asserts the planes are deployed only for specific, ongoing investigations. Exactly what sort of investigations is entirely unclear.

In fact, nearly a year later, even basic information on the program is vigorously withheld. In terms of explicit references, the HuffPost reports, little more than already heavily censored Justice Department Inspector General reports is public. “The FBI’s aviation program is not secret”, says spokesman Christopher Allen. “Specific aircraft”, he continues, “and their capabilities are protected for operational purposes.” Allen, according to the HuffPost, asserts the planes are not “equipped, designed, or used for bulk collection activities or mass surveillance.” The FBI also, apparently, allocates the fleet as air support for local departments, on-request.

fbi-spy-plane-2-bSuch statements downplaying the possibility of bulk data collection do nothing, however, to explain the plane’s flight patterns. The AP, the HuffPost reports, uncovered flights orbiting large, enclosed buildings for extended periods of time. These areas, such as Virginia’s Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport and Minnesota’s Mall Of America, made photo surveillance unlikely. Rather, electronic signals collection, the AP found, proves far more effective under such circumstances. The FBI planes, according to the AP’s flight data analysis, by 2015 had flown over at least 40,000 residents.

Conversely, officials did attribute gear capable of identifying people by their cellphones, even when not making calls, to the craft. Officials, the HuffPost echoed, say such devices, which mimic cellphone towers into providing basic subscriber information, are rarely deployed. The FBI’s cryptic program, sources claim, conjures memories of reports of suspicious planes circling US neighborhoods in 2003.

Through its investigation, the Associated Press was able to track 50 planes down to at least 13 fake companies. No, this is not hyperbole. They’re literally fraudulent, not real, lies, or whatever synonym you care to choose. FVX Research, KQM Aviation, NBR aviation, and PXW Services, according to the Huffington Post, were included among the AP’s findings. It’s interesting to note that, at least with these four companies, all have three letter acronym names. Not, of course, unlike the Federal Bureau of Investigations. A 2010 federal budget document, according to the HuffPost, verified the FBI’s fleet size at around 115 craft.

So really, to what extent is the federal law enforcement organization being brazenly, shamelessly deceptive? The FBI, according to the HuffPost, did ask the AP to not include any company names in its reporting. The bureau reputedly used the taxpayer dollars which would go towards replacing the disclosed companies as a kind of blackmail. Classy. The AP, of course, declined the FBI’s request as only publicly accessible information was used.

Most of the aircraft, despite belonging to different “companies”, were registered under a specific name–Robert Lindley. Registration documents signed by Lindley’s hand, HuffPost reports, display at least three distinct signatures. Hoping to verify the man’s existence, the AP has tried and failed to reach Robert through multiple Washington-area phone numbers under that name. FBI officials, to this day, refuse to comment on whether or not Lindley is a government employee.

By analyzing the plane’s flight data, journalists discovered the FBI fleet flew over more than 30 cities over a 30 day period. Since April 2015, two months before the Huffington Post piece, at least 100 flights circled both major cities and rural areas. Associated Press photographers even captured an image of a plane circling like a ghostly hawk in northern Virginia’s skies. The aircraft, the HuffPost reports, sported both a variety of suspicious antenna under its fuselage and a mounted camera.

Cities on the FBI’s flight list include: Houston, Phoenix, Seattle, Chicago, Boston, Minneapolis, and southern California. Some of these cities, a quick google search reveals, were subject to recent protests and/or civil unrest, such as California, Chicago and, of course, Baltimore. Despite any such public data professional and citizen journalists, analysts, or researchers may gleam, fundamental questions abound. What precisely is the purpose or function of this specific program? How long has it been operational, and under what laws is it bound or regulated? Where does excess data and footage go? How far is too far?

FBI Surveillance BaltimoreDespite the FBI’s recent downplaying of its surveillance program, its statement before congress in 2009 really says it all. “Aircraft surveillance has become an indispensable intelligence collection and investigative technique which serves as a force multiplier to the ground teams.” According to the Huffington Post, this was part of the FBI’s bid to Congress for $5.1 million in funding for the so-called “spy plane” program.

Ask yourself, what does this statement and the amount of money the FBI requested, taken either alone or together, say about the program? Does it seem like its aircraft and the technology they’re equipped with would be so rarely utilized as officials claim? “A lot of questions are unclear”, says ACLU staff attorney Nathan Wessler, the Washington Post reports.

Is it safe to suppose at least part of the programs mandate involves surveillance of generously populated protests, rowdy or otherwise? Almost sensing the question lurking about its flank the Justice Department, the HuffPost reports, maintained its “drones” don’t deploy “solely” to monitor First Amendment protected activity. In Baltimore’s case, according to FBI and Federal Aviation Administration documents, both night vision and inferred tech scanned crowds below. The documents, Washington Post reports, were obtained by the ACLU through Freedom Of Information Act requests.

An FBI official, under anonymity due to the programs sensitive nature, claimed the planes were ensuring public safety. The official, according to Washington Post, used a “potential for large scale violence and riots” as justification. “Potential”, suggesting the planes were in the air before the ground atmosphere went agro. In case you’re wondering, documents also showed no evidence of a warrant being obtained prior or after the Baltimore operation.

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If there’s at all a silver lining in any of this, it’s how much independent people really contributed to the story. Most of the information used to track, verify, and ultimately link the planes to FBI’s program hid within a slush of online data. Even the Associated Press wouldn’t have conducted an investigation had Benjamin Shayne not first tweeted about the suspicious planes. A decentralized online contingent of bloggers and Reddit users, not the organized press, was the first to conduct any serious inquiry. It’s an utter travesty that the same headline, “FBI behind mysterious surveillance aircraft over cities”, along with nearly the same AP articles, were published across the board. If that’s not a press loop then a challenge goes out to anyone who can give a more textbook example.

For anyone interested conducting a more concurrent investigation, technologist John Wiseman, Fusion.net reports, has some tips to offer. Wiseman himself used public records to get flight routes, some of which can be found online. One would be surprised what kind of legitimate information floats about the slush untouched simply because no one, except those who care, bothers to look. John also reputedly used a modified radio receiver to pick up aircraft transmissions, and tracked tail numbers, provided by the Washington Post, to a fake company. Wiseman, Fusion.net reports, recommends sites like flightradar20 and flightaware for tracking aircraft registration numbers.

Here’s where this blog gets functional! Anyone willing, able, and/or both are by all means invited to rehash the investigation. Larger news organizations might feel subliminal pressure from the feds to keep quiet, edit stories, or what have you, but the people will not. How hard would it be to, say, check up on new data on the already “found out” planes? Where are they now? Have they traded hands or do the front-companies still stand? Speaking of the “companies”, they’re fair game too! NG Research, for example, has a website which can be easily found by googling the company name. No, there isn’t any product listings on the page. No, the page hasn’t changed for over a year despite it apparently being an actual company. A functional revival of the FBI’s surveillance program, even if not published, may prove uniquely valuable in the days to come.

– Isiah Holmes

TSA Agent Claims You Need Their Permission to Record Airport Screening Pat Down

This video was submitted by Tim Blanchard, via the CopBlock.org Submission page. It shows an incident in which a TSA agent in Las Vegas incorrectly stated that you need the permission of the TSA agents in order to film them conducting a pat down during  airport security screenings. Fact is the TSA makes it very clear on their own website that the filming and/or photographing of security screenings is completely legal, provided that the person doing so does not interfere with the screening.


Date of Incident: 10/05/2015
Department Involved: McCarran International Airport (Las Vegas, NV) Transportation Security Administration
Officer Involved: LTSO Jackson
Contact: TSA Online Complaint Center


TSA Trading Liberty for SecurityI was trying to record my wife getting a pat down at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas. The TSA agents instantly tried to say that I needed their permission, which is completely incorrect. I even moved out of the immediate area when one of the agent was aggressive and came up to me. That agent followed me, but we encountered a deputy. The deputy agreed that recording an LEO is legal and supported by the 1st amendment and has been affirmed by the SCOTUS. The TSA supervisor (that the agent called for) never came, so we moved on.

– Tim Blanchard

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Andrew Henderson Meets with Minn. Chief Over Previous Police Intimidation For Filming

Andrew Henderson Police ReportRecently, Ademo posted about an interaction Andrew Henderson, a CopBlocker from the St. Paul area in Minnesota, had with a police officer who had tried to intimidate him because he was filming near a police station. This happened shortly after the St. Paul Police Department held a seat belt enforcement campaign that was really just a thinly veiled opportunity for revenue generation.

Knowing that many police themselves don’t wear seat belts when driving, Andrew decided to go down to a location near the police station and film to see how many he could find disregarding the rule that they had just placed such a heavy emphasis on for regular citizens. Not surprisingly, he had no problem whatsoever spotting officers hypocritically ignoring the seat belt law.

Not long after, an employee of the St. Paul Police Department, Officer Alba-Reyes, drove up to where Henderson was filming. During the interaction between Alba-Reyes and Andrew (which can be viewed in its entirety in the video below), the officer misstates several laws, including that he has a right to detain Henderson for filming and that the public sidewalk is actually private property. He then threatens to arrest him “if he continues trespassing on private property.”

About a month later, Andrew had a meeting with St. Paul Police Chief Tom Smith concerning this incident and the behavior of that officer. This included several inconsistencies and omissions within the official police report that was filed by Alba-Reyes. However, it apparently didn’t include an update on the St. Paul Police Department’s investigation into whether public sidewalks are in fact public or private property. (Make sure you check out Andrew’s YouTube channel for lots of great informative videos.)

During my meeting with Chief Tom Smith, I expressed my concerns on my encounter with officer Armando Alba-Reyes while…

Posted by Andrew J Henderson on Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Below is Andrews summary of that meeting via a Facebook post:

During my meeting with Chief Tom Smith, I expressed my concerns on my encounter with officer Armando Alba-Reyes while recording police officers from a public sidewalk.

  • Officer Alba-Reyes stated in his report that I was using a “bypod”, which I was not. I do not own or have ever used a bipod. The pictures he took would have proved this.
  • Officer Alba-Reyes seemed to believe that I do not have access to the Saint Paul Police policy manual, though it is publicly available at: http://www.stpaul.gov/DocumentCenter/View/70740.
  • Once I was threatened with arrest if I did not leave, I immediately walked to my vehicle and drove home, and did not continue to film vehicles as officer Alba-Reyes stated in his report, the video can be found here: https://youtu.be/J9P-4kV7Z9k.
  • Officer Alba-Reyes never turned in the pictures he took of me to the Saint Paul Police Department data vault as he is required to under Minnesota Statutes Chapter 13, and did not include them in this report.
  • There was a dashcam in the police vehicle as indicated in the report, but officer Alba-Reyes either did not turn it on or decided to not upload the content to the Saint Paul Police Department data vault.

The encounter can be viewed here: https://youtu.be/ONQXJjY_Yfk?t=4m38s (Also embedded below – editor)

Chief Smith understood my concerns, but could not give me answers as to why Officer Alba-Reyes report was not entirely factual or what happened to the photos he took of me.

I encouraged Chief Smith to adopt a policy regarding citizens filming law enforcement officers as recommended by the Department of Justice (http://www.justice.gov/…/spl/documents/Sharp_ltr_5-14-12.pdf), in addition to submitting a couple of policies to him and his staff from other agencies such as the District of Columbia Police Department (https://go.mpdconline.com/GO/GO_304_19.pdf) and the Department of Homeland Security (http://mocek.org/…/2…/06/DHS-FPS-Bulletin-HQ-IB-012-2010.pdf), as well as case law about citizens First Amendment right to document law enforcement personnel engaged in their public duties (http://media.ca1.uscourts.gov/pdf.opinions/10-1764P-01A.pdf), and to better train officers on engagement with those who chronicle police occurrences.

I hope Chief Smith will take this opportunity to transition and advance with this paradigm shift in policing.

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