Orlando Police Department’s Tactical Anti-Crime Unit is led by Lieutenant Chad Ochiuzzo. The group – “TAC” for short – operates out of a variety of undercover vehicles, primarily making pretextual traffic stops. The kind that routinely uncover drugs and guns.
In 2018 TAC recovered 98 crime guns and 57 stolen vehicles, seizing 368 pounds of cocaine, 10,360 pounds of cannabis, and 194 pounds of heroin in the process.
Yes, those are all supposed to be pounds. No, the numbers are not anomalous.
In 2017 the unit recovered 107 crime guns, 70 stolen vehicles, made nearly 600 felony arrests and seized thousands of pounds of drugs.
But on November 2, 2017, TAC made an unusual stop. They stopped a Direct TV installer… who had some fun trolling them.
Note: In 1996 the United States Supreme Court ruled that pretextual traffic stops are not inherently unconstitutional. In that case, Whren v. United States, a unanimous Court held that as long as officers have a reasonable cause to believe that a traffic violation occurred, they may stop any vehicle. As long as an actual traffic violation occurred, the ensuing search and seizure [read: traffic stop] of the offending vehicle is reasonable, regardless of what other personal motivations the officers might have had for stopping the vehicle.
Fourth Amendment protections have since been further watered-down. In Herring v. United States a 5-4 Court held that a criminal defendant’s Fourth Amendment rights are not violated when police mistakes that lead to unlawful searches are ‘merely’ the result of isolated negligence and “not systematic error or reckless disregard of constitutional requirements.” In cases where the mistake is ‘just’ a result of isolated negligence, evidence obtained is admissible and is not subject to the exclusionary rule. The real home run, however, came in the 2014 case Heien v. North Carolina. In Heien, an 8-1 majority held that ignorance of the law actually is an excuse, provided the legal error is reasonable. Oh, and only if you are a police officer.
Under Whren, a traffic stop was reasonable as long as there was any violation of traffic law, no matter how insignificant and even if the police really were stopping you for some other reason. But there had to actually be a violation of the law. Not anymore. The court ruled that the officers who stopped Nicholas Heien for a broken taillight were justified in their subsequent search of Heien’s car, even though North Carolina law says that having just one broken taillight is not a violation of the law. So the cocaine they found couldn’t be suppressed, even though the reason for the stop was a law that didn’t exist. There is no longer a known baseline of daily activity that anyone can be assured will not result in their being lawfully — mistakenly — seized.
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