Supreme Court OKs Racial Profiling

Article excerpt

EITHER RACIAL PROFILING is odious and unconstitutional, with personal and social consequences for communities of color-or it's not.

On April 23, the U.S. Supreme Court, without any dissent, decided that it was not. The ruling obliquely, but forcefully, slammed the courthouse door on any attempts to challenge this widespread law enforcement practice.

In the case of Virginia v. Moore, the high court saw no violation of David Lee Moore's Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable searches and seizures, even though his arrest was the result of a series of Keystone Cop-like miscues and an outright violation of Virginia law.

Here's how it played out: On Feb. 20, 2003, police officers received a radio call that a man known as "Chubs" was operating an automobile on a suspended license. Apparently, one of the officers knew that David Lee Moore went by the nickname of "Chubs." The officers pulled over Moore's vehicle and determined that his license had indeed been suspended. Under Virginia law, driving with a suspended license is not an arrestable offense, and the officers were obliged to issue him a citation for a future court appearance rather than take him into custody. Disregarding this clear legal mandate, however, the officers arrested Moore.

They took him to his hotel room where they searched him and found crack cocaine and $516 in cash.

According to Justice Antonin Scalia's opinion, no search of Moore was conducted when he was initially stopped because each officer mistakenly believed that the other had already searched the suspect. As Scalia noted-presumably with a straight face-Moore "consented" to a search of his person and his room.

What is not mentioned in the Supreme Court opinion-but what can be ascertained in lower court decisions, including that of the Virginia Supreme Court when it reversed Moore's conviction-was that the "Chubs" mentioned in the original radio transmission was not Moore but rather a man named Christopher Delbridge. …