Caleb Mason, who is associate professor of law at Southwestern University, has produced a line-by-line reading of rapper Jay-Z’s infamous song, ’99 Problems.’
He produced the paper for the Saint Louis University Law Journal and in it he goes through and analyzes Jay-Z’s lyrics and how they translate in the eyes of the law.
In the 20 page paper, Mason finds that Jay-Z is mostly correct in his interpretations of the law however he does notice a few areas where Jay-Z has got it a little bit twisted. His most glaringly obvious mistake is in the section where Jay-Z has been pulled over by the police and they ask to search his vehicle. In the song, he states that his glove compartment, trunk & back are locked and that they will need a warrant to undertake such a search, even stating “I know my rights.” Well in this case, it turns out that he is really quite wrong about his “rights”.
According to Mason, it is a common misconception amongst law students and indeed the general public that locking your trunk or glove compartment can stop the police from searching it.
“There is no warrant requirement for car searches. The Supreme Court has declared unequivocally that because cars are inherently mobile (and are pervasively regulated, and operated in public spaces), it is reasonable under the Fourth Amendment for the police to search the car-the whole car, and everything in the car, including containers-whenever they have probable cause to believe that the car contains evidence of crime.”
So there you have it, locking up bits of your car (in an attempt to conceal contraband or just because you don’t want the cops rooting around your stuff) will not save your ass. Police do not need to arrest the driver of the vehicle, they only need ‘probably cause’ in order to search the entire car without consent. However, if they officer forcibly opens the trunk of the car without sufficient probable cause then Jay-Z could argue in a court of law that any contraband discovered should be suppressed.
When Jay-Z mentions the choices he has when faced with a ‘problem’ Mason elaborates on which would be more beneficial to go for. Like for example when Jay-Z notices cops in his rearview mirror and bemoans his two choices, which are to pull over like a good little boy (and risk the police finding Beyonce’s knickers in his glove and selling them on eBay – or whatever it is he has in there) or to hit the gas and try to get away.
Mason explains that whilst this might seem like an obvious dilemma for someone who has contraband in their vehicle, he said that there really isn’t any choice when it comes down to it. According to Mason’s expert opinion:
“You are always better off having drugs found on you in a potentially illegal search than you are fleeing from a potentially illegal search and getting caught. The flight will provide an independent basis for chasing and arresting you, and the inadequacy of the quantum of suspicion supporting the initial attempted seizure will not taint the contraband discovered if there is an intervening flight.”
Mason concludes his essay by stating: “Finally, most importantly, for both sides – when in doubt, talk to a lawyer. My door’s always open to players on both sides of this game. Call me.”
I wonder if he’s trying to drum up some business!!
You can read the whole thing here.