Putting the Police on Trial


Julian Andreone

Despite the American people’s protection against unreasonable searches and seizures, defined in the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution, Americans are often subject to unlawful procedures by police officers. The amendment protects citizens’ rights to deny police officers the authority to search their cars on routine traffic stops. As teenagers begin to drive, it is important that they begin to learn their rights and how to exercise them in their best interests.

Recently, police officers have been bypassing the Fourth Amendment protections to illegally search motor vehicles, manipulating “probable cause” as a loophole. In the majority decision of the 1969 U.S. Supreme Court case Frazier v. Cupp, the court set a precedent by allowing police officers to use deceptive interrogation tactics before and after an arrest.

After pulling someone over for a routine traffic violation, a police officer is required to state the reason for the stop to the operator of the car. However, all of the cop’s ensuing questions and comments are fair game. Whether those questions are deceptive or not is immaterial because they are protected by the decision in Frazier v. Cupp.

A maneuver that cops have used to exploit a loophole in the Fourth Amendment in recent years is to claim that they detect an odor of marijuana coming from the vehicle, according to The Associated Press. The officer’s apparent uncovering of a substance prohibited while driving allows them to bypass a driver’s obligatory consent to search the car.

This unavoidable search opens the door to the possibility that the officer may find a different illegal item that does not have a distinct odor. If an officer finds another illegal item, one may be charged with a crime, although the evidence was obtained using methods antithetical to the spirit of The Fourth Amendment. This loophole is an example of police officers neglecting their vowed duty to serve and protect. Members of police forces across the United States often take an oath to serve and protect the American people before becoming licensed officers.

However, the commemoration and recognition granted to those who conduct the most stops, make the most arrests and issue the most tickets, blind officers from the true purpose of their job. I question the authenticity of our officers’ oaths as they, without repercussion, flout these vows day-to-day. Our officers’ intentions are disingenuous if they prioritize recognition over serving justice to the people of America. We pay officers to protect society, care for the community and save lives. We do not pay officers to cause citizens anxiety, split us in disunity and deprive those who they vowed to serve.

In the event that one is stopped by an officer, the best thing they can do is exercise their Fifth Amendment right to remain silent and admit nothing. Officers are manipulative and are trained to produce a confession, whether the individual is guilty or not, in order to meet their arrest quota and gain recognition. Do not give in to their deception, only submit to their ego and allow them to feel powerful in the midst of the stop. In our current social climate, purposeful, calculated silence as an American citizen serves as self-justice. Use it wisely.