Sunday, January 11, 2015

Chris Johnson: an Example of why you Do not Consent to a Search of your Car

It has become a hallmark of advice from lawyers.  Do not give consent to police to search your vehicle or your home.  If they had probable cause to search, they do not need to ask.  Politely refuse to give consent.  Believing that you "have nothing to hide" is escapist fantasy in today's world of overlapping amd  vague laws.   Are you certain that the pretty bird feather that your daughter picked up on your walk and left under the back seat isn't from a common owl or hawk?  Possession of an owl or  hawk feather is a federal crime.  Did an empty .22 shell slip out of your range bag and under the seat of the car?   It is a crime in D.C.   In this case, I find it hard to see how the charges will hold up.  Chris Johnson, NFL player, has a Florida concealed carry permit.  He thought he had "nothing to hide".    From
NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport reported that the 29-year-old was pulled over for rolling through a stop sign, per a source close to the player. The police officer asked to search his car. Johnson cooperated, as he had nothing to hide. The police found his licensed and registered firearm under a book bag under his seat instead of locked up in the car.
Florida is one of six outlier states that ban the open carry of modern handguns.  Its ban is being challenged in court.  A decision at the appellate level is expected in the next month or so.

In a later version of the story,  the New York Daily News publishes a different tale.  In this version, the police officer says that when he came up to the window of Chris Johnson's car, and looked inside, he saw the handle of the pistol between Johnson's feet.   This version is a little more supportable for the "open carry" charge, but Florida has a“brief and open” display exception in their concealed carry law that seems tailor made for such situations. 

The "open carry" charge seems quite a stretch, either way.  If the officer had to search the vehicle to find the firearm, it was clearly concealed, and Johnson was not violating the law because he has a concealed carry permit.  If the officer could only see the firearm by coming up close to the window and looking in, it is quite a stretch to say that he was openly carrying the firearm, under the “brief and open” display exception.  From the
According to police, Johnson was stopped at 8:56 p.m. after failing to come to a halt at a stop sign. Police said that when the officer approached Johnson's car he saw the handle of a firearm between the running back's feet.

While I do not believe in playing the race card, there seems to be a disturbing tendency for police to be biased against black men carrying guns, especially in urban settings.

Officers who ask to search your car are trained to make the request casual and seeming off the cuff.   Do not expect the officer to ask "do you surrender your 4th amendment rights to protection from unreasonable searches?" in an official tone of voice.

The request is likely to start off low key and informal.   "Do you mind if I have a look in your car?" is a common approach.   Intimidation may be used if you make a polite refusal.  "If you don't let me look in your car, I will have to get a warrant, and then you will be in trouble," may be stated in a more threatening manner.

The answer to all these requests should be the same.  No, I do not give consent to search my car.  I do not surrender any of my constitutional rights.  Am I free to go?  It is even better if you record these interactions with the police.  The ability to record police in the public performance of their duties has been ruled a first amendment right.   That way there will be no "he said/she said" as seems to be developing in the Johnson case.

Johnson is vulnerable because he is subject to extra-judicial punishments from the NFL.  The NFL is owned by powerful people who fully endorse the disarmist agenda.  His career may be significantly hurt for daring to exercise his second amendment rights.

Definition of  disarmist 

©2015 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice is included.
Link to Gun Watch

Update, it now appears that there were two pistols, which makes the officer's account more understandable.  From
However, the officer wrote that as Johnson left the vehicle, "he seemed hesitant to tell me something."

"I asked him if he wanted to tell me anything and he replied, 'Yeah, there is actually a second gun in the bag on the floor,'" the officer wrote. A second semiautomatic handgun was found in the backpack, which was open.


Wireless.Phil said...

There was a man from the USA that took care of this, the video was on TV, possibly Right This Minute.

I'll look for it.

What he did was place his drivers license, registration and a note in a clear plastic sheet protector and plasced it outside of his driverside window.

At the traffic stop, they read it and allowed him to pass without a search or alcohol test.

Like I said, I'll look for the video and post it.

There was a big fight over these stop and check points in Indiana several years ago and the police finally stopped doing it.
If I remember right, it was back either in the late 80s or 90s.

Wireless.Phil said...

Here it is, but its now on Fox and the sheriff says he can arrest you for obstruction.