Supreme Court to study police powers in traffic stops - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Supreme Court to study police powers in traffic stops

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November 20, 2003

Albany -- What are your rights in Georgia if a Police Officer pulls over your car? Can he search your trunk? Can he force you to take a breathalyzer test?

There are a number of different variables, because each stop and situation is different. And each state has a different set of laws on traffic stops. Now the Supreme Court is going to review one standard on determining probable cause to make an arrest during a traffic stop.

Dougherty County Patrol Officer Calvin Cleveland stops a truck for speeding. If he sees anything illegal in the truck during the stop, that would probable cause to make an arrest. But each state has different laws about police power during traffic stops, and it keeps changing.

Dougherty County Police Chief Don Cheek "A lot of the vehicle is by it's very nature, visible and in plain view. If we see something occurring in our presence, or if we see contraband that is plainly visible. We have something we call the right to be, the right to see, the right to seize."

Twenty states have asked the Supreme Court to re-evaluate the scope of police power during traffic stops. They want one standard on determining probable cause to make an arrest.

Dougherty County Police Chief Don Cheek, an expert in this area of the law, does not think even the Supreme Court could make hard rules for Police to follow. Chief Cheek said " I don't think they'll do that. And I think if they do, it will create a nightmare not only for law enforcement but for the courts as well."

Procedural law governing probable cause continues to change. The law governing blood alcohol tests given to drivers in crashes recently changed in Georgia due to an appeals court ruling. Those rulings keep changing the laws for Police during traffic stops.

The first traffic stop ruling dates back to 1925, United States versus Carroll. Courts had to decide probable cause for Police to stop a car during Prohibition days.

posted at 4:00 PM byjimw@walb.com