Monday, June 27, 2005

People v. Gallardo (Cal. Ct. App. - June 15, 2005)

A deputy sheriff in Orange County named Mark Froome makes a traffic stop of Edward Gallardo for having a broken taillight. Froome immediately asks Gallardo if there's anything illegal in the car, Gallardo responds "No", Froome asks Gallardo for consent to search the car, Gallardo says "Okay", and Froome finds a glass meth pipe and a baggie of meth in the car. The whole process lasts less than two minutes.

Two brief points. First, I am continuously amazed at how often people consent to searches when they've got drugs in their car. I've read thousands of those types of cases. There's undoubtedly some reason that has to do with obedience to authority or irrational optimism or something like that that's behind these irrational -- but routine -- decisions. Weird. And something I to this day still don't understand. Let me assure you that if I have drugs or a dead body or whatever in my trunk, and the police stop me, they're definitely going to need to get a warrant before that trunk pops open. Sure, maybe they'll go ahead and get one and nail me. But I'm not gonna help 'em. Sorry 'bout that.

Second, what's the deal with the virtually immediate request for a search here? Justice Moore's opinion --which upholds the validity of the search -- seems to admit that Froome didn't have any real basis to suspect that Gallardo had drugs in his car. There's no claims of "blurry eyes" or "slurring words" or anything like that. Froome just apparently decided to ask about drugs and for consent to a search on his own.

Now, I've got no problem with that, and it's apparently a pretty good investigatory tactic (and certainly worked here). But I've been stopped by the cops more times than I can count -- most recently, last week (damn speed trap on Sunset Cliffs!) -- and no officer has ever asked me if I had anything illegal in the car or asked for consent to a search. Not once. Why not? Could it possibly be because my name is Shaun Patrick Martin rather than -- as here -- Edward Flores Gallardo?

I would hope that it's also due, at least in part, to the fact that I don't use meth. But I have a sneaking suspicion -- and don't we all? -- that that's not entirely all there is. There's a reason that Gallardo gets interrogated and I don't. Even when we both have broken taillights.