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Probable Cause Case Study

Investigators are conducting surveillance of a residence and they notice the owner of the house step out his front door. A car pulls into the driveway, and the police see what appears to be drug/money exchanges occur. So, one of the surveillance vehicles decides to follow the car while another watches the residence. The police notice that the vehicle has a license plate that does not match the vehicle, so they pull the car over without incident. They find out the the other person is the driver of the vehicle. One of the officers asks for consent to search, and he says no. He decide to search the vehicle anyway. The partner pulls the officer aside and tells him this could be a civil rights violation. He ignores him and continues to conduct the search. They find 1 pound of marijuana stashed in the seat. The officers seize the drugs and take it to the evidence room for processing.

- Did the officer have probable cause to step the vehicle?
- Did he have the right to search the vehicle?
- Are there any possible ethical concerns that could arise from this case?
- Assume there was an ethical issue present. The chief decides to address these ethical concerns by developing new recruitment practices, as well as additional ethics training.
- What are the pros and cons of recruiting degreed officers? Where should we recruit officers?
- Develop an ethical training curriculum that you feel addresses the major ethical concerns.
- How can we ensure that officers will follow policy?
- How will this reduce agency accountability?

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Solution Preview

Did the officer have probable cause to step the vehicle?

Yes, the officer did have probable cause to stop the vehicle after viewing what he perceived as an illegal drug transaction. His interpretation of what he believed he saw is relative, but he does have the autonomy as a law enforcement official to stop a vehicle if a crime is in progress or if there is probable cause that one occurred.

Did he have the right to search the vehicle?

He did not have the right to search the vehicle after the occupant(s) who was/were the owner of the vehicle refused the search. At this point, the officer was forced to obtain a search warrant or call in the drug unit with specially trained dogs that would have been able to definitively give a drug hit, subsequently ...

Solution Summary

The probable cause case study is examined.