High court to hear case about evidence obtained from illegal search under state law.Washington, D.C. – The ACLU this week filed a friend-of-the-court brief asking the U.S. Supreme Court to affirm a Virginia Supreme Court decision holding that evidence obtained by police in violation of Virginia law is also a violation of the Fourth Amendment’s guarantee against unreasonable searches.
In Moore v. Commonwealth, both the Court of Appeals and Supreme Court of Virginia ruled that cocaine discovered during a search after the arrest of David Lee Moore for driving with a suspended license could not be used to bring criminal drug charges against him. Under Virginia law, driving with a suspended license is a class 1 misdemeanor, meaning Moore should have received a citation and then been released, but not arrested.
Lawyers for the state argued that even though the arrest was prohibited under state law, no Supreme Court interpretation of the Fourth Amendment prohibits arrests for this or similar offenses.
Moore’s attorneys and the ACLU argue that if the police lacked the authority to arrest Moore under state law, the search following his arrest automatically violated his Fourth Amendment rights. This is consistent with the Supreme Court rulings giving latitude to the states to decide which offenses are subject to arrest and which are not.
“We are merely asking the U.S. Supreme Court to affirm the common sense rulings of the Virginia Courts -- rulings that clearly follow the high court’s Fourth Amendment precedents,” said ACLU of Virginia Executive Director Kent Willis.
“The Founders meant for the Fourth Amendment to be a protective wall between the government and the private space occupied by citizens,” added Willis. “As a way of preventing the government from abusing its powers, courts have held that evidence obtained through illegal searches cannot be used in court proceedings.”
Oral argument in Virginia v. Moore is scheduled for January 14, 2008 in the U.S. Supreme Court in DC.
A copy of the ACLU’s amicus brief can be found online at http://www.acluva.org/docket/pleadings/moore_amicus.pdf. Lawyers for the ACLU are: Steven R. Shapiro and Emily Chiang, National ACLU staff; Susan N. Herman, cooperating attorney for the national ACLU; and Rebecca K. Glenberg, ACLU of Virginia staff.
Contacts: Kent Willis or Rebecca Glenberg, 804/644-8022