Remember the adage that “ignorance of the law is no excuse.” Time and time again, we are reminded that even if a client did not know his/her conduct violated the law, it doesn’t matter because ignorance of the law is no excuse.
Today, the Supreme Court issued an opinion that excuses when the police are ignorant of the law. Where the police stop a motorist or citizen based on the officer not knowing the law, e.g., the officer thinks that a statute says one thing but it really says another, their mistake of law is excused. The traffic stop stands. The evidence seized based on the mistake is irrelevant. This opinion undermines the Fourth Amendment dramatically. All a police officer need say, in defense of a stop, is/was “I thought the law prohibited what your client was doing.” Even if wrong, they are excused.
I guess that ignorance of the law is an excuse if you are a police officer. Is it too much to ask that the people enforcing the law actually know it?
Read the awful opinion here: http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/14pdf/13-604_ec8f.pdf