I recently came across this article by Caleb Mason, a law professor at the Southwestern Law School. Here, he analyzed Verse 2 of Jay-Z’s popular song 99 Problems in which Jay-Z is traveling down I-95 with drugs in his car and has a police encounter.
Verse 2 is a fairly accurate analysis of a person’s rights when stopped by the police. As it turns out, the popular song is a good lesson in the law. Verse 2 starts with Jay-Z saying he has two choices when he sees the police in his rearview mirror. He can either “bounce on the double” and attempt to flee from the scene, or pull over. Professor Mason states that your best bet is to pull over. It is rare that you would be able to out-run the police. And secondly, you have a much better shot at fighting an illegal search by arguing there is a lack of probable cause. Once a person flees it is much harder to get the evidence thrown out, and a 4th Amendment violation becomes much harder to argue.
When Jay-Z sees the police in his rearview mirror, he should have only one choice. Pull over. You have a much better shot at arguing the police are making an illegal search because they lack probable cause, than you would by running from the police. If you can successfully argue that the police lack probable cause to pull you over, the subsequent search would be deemed illegal, and any evidence obtained would not be admissible in court. Without evidence of the crime, the charge certainly could not stand.
Line 16 reads “Do you mind if I look around the car a little bit?” Here, the policeman is trained to make you believe that you have no other choice but to consent. This is completely false! The police do not have to tell you that you have the right to refuse their search. The policeman may smile in his attempt to make you feel that he is casually asking you questions, but in reality, he is trying to coax you into consenting when he lacks probable cause to search your vehicle. Most people think that the officer’s question is a demand, and will consent regardless. Know your rights!
Police use all kinds of tactics to persuade persons to consent to searches of their vehicle. Your voluntary consent to his subsequent search will alleviate the need for him to have probable cause. So whatever he may find, will be admissible in court if you voluntarily consent.
Although Jay-Z’s song is quite accurate, there is one mistake. He says, “Well, my glove compartment is locked, so is the trunk and the back. And I know my rights so you go’n need a warrant for that.” This line is incorrect because simply locking your glove compartment does not render it off-limits. If the policeman has probable cause that there is contraband or illegal weapons in your vehicle, he can search a locked compartment, including the trunk.
Read through Caleb Mason’s full article to see his in-depth analysis of Jay-Z’s song. The next time you hear 99 Problems, remember if you’re ever pulled over and the police officer asks: “Do you mind if I look around a little bit,” you have the right to say NO!
If you find yourself in this situation, you may have a claim to invalidate the arrest based on a violation of your 4th Amendment rights. Contact Miami Criminal Defense Attorney Chad Piotrowski to go over the facts of your arrest and to determine the likelihood of getting your case thrown out based on a violation of your rights.
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