I haven’t had much time to post lately, but a substantial Supreme Court ruling this week demands a post. The Court ruled, by an 8-1 margin, that police searches that take place in the driveway of a home also require a warrant. Essentially, the court ruled that the curtilage of a home, that is, the immediate area surrounding the home, has similar protection to the home itself. In this case out of Virginia, an officer suspected that a stolen motorcycle could have been been stolen, and took it upon himself to peek under the cover. The Court found that the search was illegal because the officer did not obtain a warrant first.
Ultimately, this may not prove to be the most influential ruling… how many searches take place in a home’s driveway? Will this extend to the parking spot of an apartment complex? (I think so.) This ruling is not a great surprise, as the Supreme Court in the last few years has been very clear on the Constitutional protections for privacy against searches, particularly in relation to the home. And this will not hamstring law enforcement too much: cases like this one would present plenty of evidence to obtain a warrant.
A man in Fairfax, Virginia, was suspected of drunk driving and fled from the cops. Isaac Bonsu abandoned his flight, and jumped out to run, leaving the car behind. Unfortunately, he didn’t put the car in park… as he ran around the car, it rolled forward, knocking him down and allowing the cops to detain him and put him in custody. Amazingly, this was in Virginia and not Florida.
Fairfax police released the video this week: and it’s AMAZING!
Jayson Werth, of the Washington Nationals, apparently does not read my blog. If he had read my earlier article, he would have known that Virginia does not take kindly to speeders. If they’ll lock up a car writer on a test drive, you know they will be happy to send a message to a rich ballplayer driving his Porsche 50 miles over: 105 in a 55. It also may not have helped that he told the cop he was “pressing his luck”, according to the officer’s testimony.
Now, I have major reservations about the court’s findings in this case. Apparently the testimony alleged that the cop accelerated to 105 MPH, and that Werth was still pulling away. “Still pulling away” are frequently used by cops to bolster their case when they don’t actually pace someone for an appreciable amount of time. Apparently this all happened within six tenths of a mile. It’s strains credulity that the cop gunned it up to 105, and that Werth was still pulling away, yet still saw the officer’s lights and pulled over, in that short of a period of time. Theoretically possible, but I doubt the cop was also driving a Porsche. Werth admitted going way to fast, but testified he could’ve been doing 90, but not much more.
That kind of speed is considered reckless driving in Virginia, and it’s not unusual for judges there to give out jail time for first time offenders. Werth was sentenced to 10 days in jail, with another 170 suspended. He will probably serve only 5 days, and only if he is unsuccessful on his appeal. It’s not a good idea to speed anywhere, but for the love of dog, don’t speed in Virginia!
Camaro ZL1, photo courtesy Chevrolet.com
No, he didn’t steal the tester… he just drove like he stole it. Patrick George, a writer for car-enthusiast website Jalopnik.com, recently got charged with reckless driving for speeding during his test drive. No doubt, his speed was excessive, but so was the sentence: which entailed three days in jail on a first offense. His eye opening experience led him to write a great first-person account of his brief, yet eye-opening, time in jail: “Never Speed in Virginia: Lessons From My Three Days in Jail“. Go read it now.
Yasiel Puig Arrest
The legal issue that stood out for me was that Virginia automatically considers high speed to be reckless driving, and therefore a criminal offense. In Florida, speed alone cannot constitute reckless driving. That’s why when baseball all-star Yasiel Puig of the Dodgers got pulled over flying across the Alligator Alley a few months back, the state ultimately dropped the charges. That didn’t keep an overzealous Trooper from throwing him in jail instead of issuing a citation in the first place, but that’s an argument for another post. But speed alone can be a crime in Virginia, subjecting drivers to up to a year in jail.
I suspect that not many first time reckless drivers actually end up in jail… frankly I hope not. Not only does it cost taxpayers money, it goes against well established principles of recognizance for first time offenders. Sheesh, make a guy pay a fine or do some community service if you have to: something to benefit the community instead of taxing it. I don’t practice in Virginia, but this reeks of small town justice. The national media writer from DC gets popped in a small town, and they hammer him to teach a lesson. This kind of abuse of power also carries the risk of discriminatory sentencing. Think of the cliche little town with an all-powerful judicial figure; Boss Hogg still lives. I keep thinking of “Nothing But Trouble“, an unfortunate Chevy Chase/Dan Akyroyd vehicle from 1991. And in that movie, Chevy Chase actually fled, in this case, Mr. George was immediately contrite. They say speed kills, but random jailings don’t really work as effective deterrents.
James Watson Mug Shot
32-year-old James Watson woke up with a tingling feeling on his face. When he checked himself, he saw that his roommate had drawn a penis on his face while he was sleeping. He then went to the roommate’s room, and kicked his butt. He fought the case at trial and lost, no word on what his defense was. Chill out, dude… it was just a dry erase marker, anyway! Now, if it had been a Sharpie…
FB friendly photo:
James Watson (edit)