This story was originally published by the WND News Center.
A lawsuit has been filed against police in Alexandria, Louisiana, for pulling over a couple and citing the driver for refusing to signal a turn.
The problem for the officers? Their own dashcam tape revealed the driver was, in fact, signaling the turn.
And that, combined with the officers’ decision to grill the couple in the car about drugs, each other, and more, suggests they were using the pretext of a traffic violation to pull them over and question them.
That’s a problem, explained the Institute for Justice in its lawsuit on behalf of Maria Rosales and Gracie Lasyone.
“The Fourth Amendment promises that police will not detain us on a whim to search for crimes,” said IJ Attorney Marie Miller. “They have to reasonably suspect a person of a crime to stop and interrogate them about it. The Constitution is the highest law in the land and officers can’t violate it in pursuit of a crime.”
After being followed, stopped, grilled, and cited, the duo located a videotape that showed the ticket for failing to signal was based on false premises, and all of the counts against them were dropped by the courts.
But the IJ pointed out the situation violated multiple constitutional rights.
The two were on their way to pick up an auto part when they were stopped. The IJ explained, “Mario was confused about why the police had pulled him over but followed directions to exit his car. The officers frisked Mario and searched his pockets even though he had not given the officers any reason to suspect him of being armed or dangerous or of any wrongdoing. Both he and Gracie were asked probing questions about their relationship and about whether they did a number of drugs.”
The officers also barred them from recording the traffic stop on their phones, which violates the First Amendment.
“The bodycam footage makes clear that the officers did not simply want to hand out traffic citations; they were fishing for bigger crimes. When dispatch informed the officers that a search for criminal histories or open warrants had returned no results, one officer exclaimed in disappointment, ‘Aw, what are the chances of that?! … Aw man!'” the IJ reported.
“I did nothing wrong, but I still found myself standing on the side of the road wondering whether I would be arrested,” said Mario, in a statement released by the IJ. “What happened to me was wrong and I’m trying to hold the police and the city accountable because they are certainly treating other people the same way. Police have an important job to do, but they have to follow the Constitution.”
The legal team said officers cannot just pull drivers over without reason, and cannot expand a traffic stop into a search without a warrant.