Ohio Police Threaten Unconstitutional Searches To Stop Citizens Who React “Suspiciously”

croppedThe police in Mayfield Heights, Ohio are clearly put out that the Supreme Court has ruled out checkpoints for drugs. They have come up with what they believe is the next best thing: fake drug checkpoints. They are effectively threatening an unconstitutional stop to see which drivers flee . . . and then searching their vehicles. It turns out that Police Chief Fred W. Bittner has support from the local prosecutors in threatening police abuse as a basis to stop cars.

When the Court allowed sobriety checkpoints, many civil libertarians objected to the reduction of protections for suspicionless searches. Yet, in Michigan Dept. of State Police v. Sitz, the Court ruled 6-3 that such stops were reasonable under the Fourth Amendment. As a result, citizens are now routinely stopped in these checkpoints.

However, City of Indianapolis v. Edmond, 531 U.S. 32 (2000), the Court drew the line at drug checkpoints and ruled that such stops were unreasonable. The Mayfield Heights police and prosecutors are clearly disappointed that they cannot search all citizens driving on roads around this city of just 19,000. So they came up with the faux stop idea.

Here is how it works. The police post large yellow signs on the Interstate warning of a drug checkpoint ahead and to be prepared to stop for a drug-sniffing dog. Instead of a checkpoint, police just watch for any suspicious response to the sign. The police say that they nabbed four people this way.

Putting aside the low yield, there is the abuse of threatening unconstitutional acts to see if citizens try to avoid it. Yet, Dominic Vitantonio, a Mayfield Heights assistant prosecutor, insisted that “We should be applauded for doing this. It’s a good thing.”

It’s a good thing that police threaten citizens with unconstitutional actions and then search them when they seek to avoid it. I would challenge any such stop. There are ample reasons for citizens to want to avoid police abuse, which is what the signs are promising since police cannot engage in such action.

In one case detailed in this story, a man missed his exit and was pulled over to check his phone for direction. He then pulled back on the freeway. He the pulled over again to connect his phone to a re-charger as he is supposed to do rather than multitask while driving. Police then pulled him over and demanded to know what kind of drugs he had in the car. He was told that it would be better for him to simply confess before the arrival of the drug-sniffing dog. The man agreed to a search and no drugs were found.

The fact that the prosecutor, Mr. Vitantonio, supports such abusive practices shows a serious gap of judgment in this jurisdiction. He appears to believe that citizens should be stopped if they take any effort to avoid an act of police abuse. I hope that one of these four citizens will challenge their arrests and put Mr. Vitantonio’s theory to the test.

Source: Washington Post

38 thoughts on “Ohio Police Threaten Unconstitutional Searches To Stop Citizens Who React “Suspiciously”

  1. Arrests and crime must be down in Mayfield! Sheriff Andy Taylor would have never abided this. But, I could see Barney thinking it a good idea.

  2. What is suspicious about taking action to avoid unconstitutional and intrusive action by government agents?

  3. Increase funding for federal “color of law” investigations and enforcement. The DOJ Civil Rights Division is very skilled with corrupt public officials, especially corrupt law enforcement!

  4. There has been a wholesale abandonment of the rule of law in the US. In exchange, we now have rule by law. That is, the use of laws to intimidate, control, bully and punish people.

    Govt., small and large has many tools with which to silence dissent, to frighten and intimidate the public into submission to injustice. As we see in the story below this, failure to reign in proprietorial abuse is simply one more dangerous way of denying fundamental rights in our Constitution.

    Rule by law stands the rule of law on its head. This comes from the top and has spread to the most local law enforcement (although some small fiefdoms have been in operation for a very long time).

    Here is part of a speech by Harold Pinter in 2005. I think it describes our nation quite well and is well worth contemplating: “Political language, as used by politicians, does not venture into any of this territory since the majority of politicians, on the evidence available to us, are interested not in truth but in power and in the maintenance of that power. To maintain that power it is essential that people remain in ignorance, that they live in ignorance of the truth, even the truth of their own lives. What surrounds us therefore is a vast tapestry of lies, upon which we feed…The truth is to do with how the United States understands its role in the world and how it chooses to embody it.

    But before I come back to the present I would like to look at the recent past, by which I mean United States foreign policy since the end of the Second World War. I believe it is obligatory upon us to subject this period to at least some kind of even limited scrutiny, which is all that time will allow here.

    Everyone knows what happened in the Soviet Union and throughout Eastern Europe during the post-war period: the systematic brutality, the widespread atrocities, the ruthless suppression of independent thought. All this has been fully documented and verified.

    But my contention here is that the US crimes in the same period have only been superficially recorded, let alone documented, let alone acknowledged, let alone recognised as crimes at all. I believe this must be addressed and that the truth has considerable bearing on where the world stands now. Although constrained, to a certain extent, by the existence of the Soviet Union, the United States’ actions throughout the world made it clear that it had concluded it had carte blanche to do what it liked.

    Harold Pinter’s Nobel Lecture 2005

  5. Interstate 271 runs through the middle of this burg. Aside from the speeders there or occasional shoplifting at Walmart or the various other shopping outlets, and the “heavy domestics” in this lower-to-middle class empire, there’s little for the cops to do. Typical for a suburb, any action causes multiple cars to respond and overdo something city cops either take in stride or ignore.

  6. Police are said to give freedom be our protector To break down a door being suspicious is not giving freedom. Nether is that act protecting anyone. It is having people think,..am I going harmed or killed by the people said to protect us? Police are like an immune system gone wacko. Stop your foolishness.

  7. Police are said to give freedom being our protector. To break down a door being suspicious is not giving freedom. Nether is that act protecting anyone. It is having people think,..am I going harmed or killed by the people said to protect us? Police are like an immune system gone wacko. Stop your

    foolishness.

  8. How about renting a large billboard a couple miles before the exit for the town on the interstate? Make the sign read “Mayfield Heights uses abusive police searches, avoid the next exit for your own safety.”

    See how long their tactics last after the merchants complain to the town council.

  9. Why wait.

    If the stops are illegal and are being done under color of state law a 42 USC 1983 action would lie.

    There would be no qualified immunity because of the prior Supreme Court rulings JT mentioned.

    “Sue the bastids!”

  10. I have seen signs on a couple of different interstates warning of drug checkpoints ahead. However, the next exit past that sign had checkpoints at the top of the ramp and were stopping people who took the exit. It has been several years since I have seen any of those, so maybe someone higher up “got the memo.”

  11. By construing invocation of the right to remain free from unreasonable search and seizure–here, evading the drug checkpoint–as reasonable suspicion or probable cause to stop the driver, Mayfield Heights is chilling the exercise of fundamental rights. If the Sixth Circuit is anything like the First or Ninth, this policy might not last too much longer. See, Fletcher v. Town of Clinton, 196 F.3d 41, 54 (1st Cir.1999)(“It is important to note that Fletcher’s refusal to let the officers into her house cannot serve as the justification for her arrest. Fletcher says that Genest threatened her with arrest if she denied them access to the house so that they could arrest McDonald. If that were the justification for Fletcher’s arrest, that arrest would be in clear violation ofthe Fourth Amendment.”); U.S. v. Prescott, 581 F.2d 1343, 1350 (9th Cir. 1978)(FourthAmendment confers “constitutional right to refuse to consent to entry and search”; assertion of Fourth Amendment rights “cannot be a crime . . . Nor can it be evidence of a crime.”)(citing, Camara v. Municipal Court of City and County of San Francisco,387 U.S. 523, at 532-33 (1967) and District of Columbia v. Little, 339 U.S. 1, 7(1950))

  12. It seems it is illegal to flash you lights at an oncoming car to indicate there is a cop in the bushes speed trap. I suppose a warning billboard would then be equally illegal. When did the world turn on its head and the cops and prosecutors are the bad guys (by their own actions)?

  13. well the response to this will surely give them something to do besides sit around and eat donuts. seeing as how today you can give a cop a “dehumanizing stare” and thats reason for them to put you in a choke hold. or waving your arms around while rough housing with friends, or even walking out of the store with bottled water. the police state is here now comes the push to force the people to begin a civil war so they can really come out in the open and realize their martial law. so far progress isnt going the way they want. so expect situations like this to get worse and worse

  14. back in the 80’s they tried the same thing here off I 95 in volusia county florida. feds made them stop because too many people were turning around in the median creating hazardous conditions.

  15. pete9999:

    I remember they made some FL state cop a hero for coming up with the idea. Lie to the public! It’s for their own good.

  16. There is one checkpoint on Interstate 10 near Van Horn, Tx. and then one on Interstate 8 in western San Diego County. Anyone who drives that route knows about them. Although Willie Nelson and other musicians have gotten popped @ those stops. What would you think if people did a U-turn @ these established checkpoints. I’m leaning toward it’s probable cause and I’m a strong 4th amendment guy, and I deplore the war on drugs. These checkpoints are for both illegal immigrants and drugs.

  17. NS: “What would you think if people did a U-turn @ these established checkpoints.”

    They do at Van Horn and are pursued, caught, and arrested. More often it is an expired Student Visa which caused the change of directions rather than illicit drugs. They would have been waived on with instructions to self-deport if they had stopped at the checkpoint.

  18. The most important thing about this is that some prosecutors support these
    kinds of police-state actions. Why in the world would THEY support this?

  19. Here’s a story for you:

    Belgian diplomat booted from golf club, treated like ‘terrorists’ over wife’s breast-feeding
    By KATE BRIQUELET
    June 30, 2013
    http://www.nypost.com/p/news/local/mom_terror_bust_n1BftwpraCJSSBW1xjf2aO

    Excerpt:
    A Belgian diplomat says his family was bounced from a White Plains golf club — and treated like “terrorists” — simply because his wife was breast-feeding at a table and he was carrying a black backpack.

    Tom Neijens, 36, and his wife, Roseline Remans, 34, stopped by the Metropolis Country Club on June 8 and asked if they could have lunch despite the fact that they weren’t members.

    Staffers gave the Harlem family permission to dine on the terrace, where Remans said she discreetly bared her bosom to feed her daughter, Luka.

    A female manager swiftly intervened to nip the feeding in the bud.

    “She said, ‘Please leave immediately, you are disturbing the members,’ ” Neijens, first secretary of the Belgium Mission to the UN, told The Post.

    Neijens said it would only take a few minutes, but Remans was told to finish in the restroom.

    “You don’t ask a person to have lunch in the restroom — why would you ask a baby to have lunch there?” Neijens said.

    Minutes later, the Greenburgh Police Department arrived.

    Detective Scott Harding allegedly yelled, “Close the doors!” and two other diners were told to leave the terrace.

    “He was walking as if he was acting in a Western movie,” Neijens said. “He had one hand on his gun, one hand on his Taser.”

    Neijens said the officer warned the couple they were trespassing and said some people at the club thought they were terrorists because of their black backpack.

    When Remans, on the verge of tears, questioned why terrorists would breast-feed at a ritzy club, the cop allegedly replied, “In Sri Lanka, babies are used by terrorists.”

    Harding changed his tone when Neijens revealed his State Department-issued ID. “You have to understand, this club has had terrorism threats in the past,” the cop said.

    The family was escorted out through a back door.

    Days later, the diplomat sent an e-mail demanding an apology from Metropolis general manager Tracy Fraus and assistant general manager Audra Vaccari.

    “I am deeply worried about your staff if they cannot distinguish between a European couple looking for a quiet place to breast-feed a baby and suicide terrorists carrying a backpack,” Neijens wrote.

  20. I don’t like the pit bull idea.

    I do like the idea of video taping the stops from inside and outside the vehicles and have the residents of the vehicles ask some pointed questions. Maybe in German.

  21. There are no billboards to rent for several miles in any direction on 271 until Warrensville Heights to the south, several suburbs away.

  22. Burma shave signs in sequence:

    Here I sit broken hearted

    Tried to Poop but only Farted.

    One more opCay round the corner.

    Go back to the way you started.

    Drop A Donut in the Box.

    Where opCays frequent– after stops.

    Leave a turdy in that Box

    Before they come back like an ox.

  23. police do not know that they walk in darkness in a body that has darkness in it. Without the Lord in them police will be in fear looking for people that look suspicious. Religious pharisees acted like that. They saw Jesus as being a suspicious character because he was not of this world.

  24. Police do not know that they walk in darkness in a body that has darkness in it. Without the Lord in them police will be in fear looking for people that look suspicious. Religious pharisees acted like that. They saw Jesus as being a suspicious character because he was not of this world.

  25. Ok you are now reading daily the takeover beginning. Only thing to be done stomp them into ground get rid od judges stomp the evil out of all of them like us and egypt right?? This country is full of weak morons we are 300,000,000+ people they dont stand a chance unless we let them get away with this sick SHIT.

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