IS A VIOLATION OF STATE LAW ALSO A FOURTH AMENDMENT VIOLATION?
The question here is: Is a violation of state law also a Fourth Amendment violation?
The United States Supreme Court has granted cert in Virginia v. Moore (06-1082) on whether or not a violation of state law is a Fourth Amendment violation. This is an issue of first impression, and it involves tension between Knowles v. Iowa and Atwater v. City of Lago Vista (a particularly insidious and result-oriented decision in and of itself).
Under Virginia law, driving on a suspended license is a class 1 misdemeanor, and the officers should have written a citation. Instead, the arrested him, Mirandized him, and he then consented to search his hotel room. And of course they found bad stuff and Mr. Moore got indicted.
"The officers were authorized to issue only a summons to Moore for the offense of operating a vehicle on a suspended license because none of the exceptions in the Virginia Code were present. Thus, under the holding in Knowles, the officers could not lawfully conduct a full field-type search. We find Knowles and Lovelace controlling and hold that the search of Moore was not consistent with the Fourth Amendment. Accordingly, we will reverse the judgment of the Court of Appeals and dismiss the indictment against Moore."
Moore v. Commonwealth, 272 Va. 717, 636 S.E.2d 395, 400 (2006).
Note: Let's watch this case carefully. California has long held pursuant to proposition 8 that a violation of state statute does not implicate the Fourth Amendment, thus giving the green light to California law enforcement officers to conduct full searches and arrest individuals on minor traffic infractions with impunity.
If the justices vote correctly on this issue, we might be turning the corner toward civilization again.