Police Mistakes Can Lead to Valid Arrests: Supreme Court

A police officer's mistaken idea of the law does not invalidate an arrest and search as long as it's a reasonable understanding, the Supreme Court ruled Monday. In the 2009 case, a county sheriff's deputy in North Carolina mistakenly pulled over a man for driving while one of his headlights was out, even though the state's law only requires "a" stop lamp. After obtaining permission for a search, the officer found a baggie of cocaine in the car, even though by state law wasn't being broken. By an 8-1 vote, the Supreme Court said the arrest and search were valid, even if the officer was wrong about the law, because "the Fourth Amendment allows for some mistakes on the part of government officials," as Chief Justice John Roberts wrote.

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