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Got Pulled Over With Kilos in Your Trunk? Here’s Legal Advice From Jay-Z’ “99 Problems”Posted by Nathan S. on 07/12/12 | Filed under Features, Opinion, Jay-Z
Not since that one dude exhaustively researched the day Ice Cube was referring to on "Good Day" have I enjoyed someone flipping a hip-hop classic into the real world. Caleb Mason, an associate professor of law at Southwestern University, has taken it upon himself to break down the legal implications of Jay-Z' "99 Problems".
"Do you mind if I look around the car a little bit?"/"Well, my glove compartment is locked, so is the trunk and the back,/And I know my rights so you go'n need a warrant for that"
"If this Essay serves no other purpose, I hope it serves to debunk, for any readers who persist in believing it, the myth that locking your trunk will keep the cops from searching it. Based on the number of my students who arrived at law school believing that if you lock your trunk and glove compartment, the police will need a warrant to search them, I surmise that it's even more widespread among the lay public. But it's completely, 100% wrong. There is no warrant requirement for car searches. The Supreme Court has declared unequivocally that because cars are inherently mobile (and are pervasively regulated, and operated in public spaces), it is reasonable under the Fourth Amendment for the police to search the car-the whole car, and everything in the car, including containers-whenever they have probable cause to believe that the car contains evidence of crime.
You don't have to arrest the person, or impound the vehicle. You just need probable cause to believe that the car contains evidence of crime. So, in any vehicle stop, the officers may search the entire car, without consent, if they develop probable cause to believe that car contains, say, drugs.
All the action, in short, is about probable cause. Warrants never come into the picture. The fact that the trunk and glove compartments are locked is completely irrelevant. Now, Jay-Z may have just altered the lyrics for dramatic effect, but that would be unfortunate insofar as the song is going to reach many more people than any criminal procedure lecture, and everyone should really know the outline of the law in this area. What the line should say is: "You'll need some p.c. for that." Given that we've established (it appears) that Jay-Z is not under arrest, and given that the Terry frisk of the car is limited to accessible places a weapon could be hidden, the trunk is definitely off limits at this point. What that means is that if the officer opened the trunk by force, without developing articulable probable cause, the contraband found inside would be suppressed. That is the point of the next line."
Check out the full breakdown here. And I'm not saying I hope you get pulled over with a couple kilos in the trunk, but if you do and you get away with it, I want you to remember where you got this free legal advice from.
See Also: Holy Sh*t, This Dude Figured Out Ice Cube’s “Good Day” Was January 20, 1992