During the week fo March 28, the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that police officers can lie when pulling someone over for a traffic stop when they have reasonable suspicion that the person has committed a different crime.
The case stemmed from the police pulling over Hector Magallon-Lopez on Sept. 28, 2012, and telling him that the stop was for failing to signal properly before changing lanes, notes USA TODAY.
During a search of the car, two pounds of methamphetamine were seized.
According to court records, the real reason for the traffic stop was a Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) wiretap intercept conducted on Sept. 27, 2012. The intercept revealed that two Hispanic males, one with a ghost and skull arm tattoo, were going to be transporting meth in a "green, black or white" car with Washington plates through Bozeman, Montana, between the hours of 3 a.m. and 4 a.m. on Sept. 28, 2012.
Police set up a surveillance team,and they saw a green Volkwagen Passat with Washington state plates that was registered to a Hector Lopez.
During the fake traffic stop, police noticed the tattoo on Magallon-Lopez's arm. The other man in the car was Juan Sanchez, whom the wiretap also mentioned.
"That the officer lied about seeing Magallon-Lopez make an illegal lane change does not call into question the legality of the stop," Judge Paul Watford, of the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, wrote in his opinion.
"The standard for determining whether probable cause or reasonable suspicion exists is an objective one; it does not turn either on the subjective thought processes of the officer or on whether the officer is truthful about the reason for the stop."
Jonathan Turley, a law professor at The George Washington University Law School, wrote on his blog about the ruling.
"It is an interesting opinion to come out at a time when Watford was considered for the Court but opposed by due to a view that he was soft of death penalty cases and immigration violations," he noted.
"Here he gave the police a resounding win in holding that police can knowingly lie about stops without losing the resulting evidence."