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Heien V. North Carolina Case Summary

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On April 21, 2014 the Supreme Court granted writ of certiorari in Heien v North Carolina which was the first argued case during their new term. This case presents the question of whether a police officer’s mistake of law can provide the individualized suspicion that the Fourth Amendment requires to justify a traffic stop (Brief of Petitioner 2). This case arose in 2009 when police stopped Nicholas Heien in North Carolina for driving with one broken brake light. The officer issued Heien a citation for his light and then proceeded to ask him if he could search his car, which Heien consented to. During the search, the officer discovered a sandwich bag that contained 54.2 grams of cocaine and Heien was arrested on the spot for drug trafficking (Oyez Project). He plead guilty to two counts of drug …show more content…
One of the briefs filed consisted of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, the Cato Institute, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the ACLU of North Carolina. These groups all have an interest in insuring justice and due process in criminal defense cases and work to advance civil rights and liberties (Brief of Amici National 2). This brief points out that the North Carolina Supreme Court approach contradicts basic Fourth Amendment principles by saying mistakes of law and fact are the same thing and by doing so it does not recognize the roles these mistakes play in analyzing the Fourth Amendment. They also believe that if this case is affirmed, there will be consequences for both citizens and law enforcement. Citizens would be held responsible to follow a new category of traffic stops that can be deemed reasonable suspicion, and officers would not take their training as seriously if they have reasonable mistake to fall back on. Allowing this would hinder the public’s acceptance of the authority and their knowledge of the law (Amici of National

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