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Letter: U.S. police strictly follow probable cause law
To the editor:
In the Friday, Jan. 24 issue of the Capital News, a letter from Mr. Grant Baudais appears. He takes issue with the issue of mandatory road-side driver testing.
I tend to agree with him to a point, but wish to address another part of his letter.
To quote: “The next thing we know, we will mirror the police state to the south of us where you can be stopped and searched without probable cause anywhere, and be subjected to various forms of delay and harassment.”
I would hope that Mr. Baudais is referring to Mexico, where indeed his statement would apply. However, if he is referring to any State in the United States of America, he is absolutely wrong.
As a veteran USA police officer and supervisor, retired after 31 years of service, I can categorically state that nowhere in the USA can a search be conducted without probable cause. This rule has been established for years, by various state courts, and the US Supreme Court. Should an over- zealous officer do this, the case would be quickly dismissed upon a motion to suppress evidence.
Officers in the USA are very much aware of search and seizure rules. Any officers who routinely ignore the protocol end up having very serious discussions with their supervisors, and the local District Attorney’s office.
I also note that, in the State of Oregon, “road checks” of any kind are prohibited. So, following the logic of Mr. Baudis, British Columbia is more of a “police state” than is the USA! In the USA, a traffic violation is required to justify a vehicle stop. If the officer finds suspicion of driving under the influence of intoxicants, further investigation is then justified.
Having said that, perhaps Mr. Baudais is referring to the broad latitude given to US Homeland Security Border Services officers? True enough, when crossing the border, one agrees to any search deemed necessary. However, I must state that this is true of Canadian Border Services as well. This is the case in any country, when crossing the border.
So, if Mr. Baudais has a specific instance where, in the USA, he was stopped and searched without probable cause, I would be most interested to read the details of his experience.