Police Officer Sets Record For Most Constitutional Violations In Single Traffic Stop
Here we go: three invasive searches — each more invasive then the one preceding it — without even the slightest shred of the Fourth Amendment intact by the end of it. Radley Balko has the details.
Here’s what happened: Lakeya Hicks and Elijah Pontoon were in Hicks’s car just a couple of blocks from downtown Aiken when they were pulled over by Officer Chris Medlin of the Aiken Department of Public Safety. Hicks was driving. She had recently purchased the car, so it still had temporary tags.
In the video, Medlin asks Hicks to get out, then tells her that he stopped her because of the “paper tag” on her car. This already is a problem. There’s no law against temporary tags in South Carolina, so long as they haven’t expired.
As we’re well aware, officers need not trouble themselves as to the details of the laws they enforce. If they feel something is a violation of the law, they’re pretty much free to pull someone over and engage in some light questioning. (The Ninth Circuit Appeals Court recently declared it’s even OK for police officers to lie about the reason they’ve pulled you over.)
Once pulled over, the fun begins. And by “fun,” I mean three consecutive unconstitutional searches. While the “automobile exception” gives law enforcement more leeway to perform warrantless searches, it does not free them entirely from the constraints of the Fourth Amendment. But these South Carolina officers tossed caution, the Constitution and the two subjects’ dignity to the wind in a matter of minutes.