I know what you’re thinking– Did the Notorious RBG, as Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is known on the legal streets, rule in favor of Jay-Z in some case I missed in my Twitter feed? The answer is no, not exactly, but kind of. Everyone knows Jay-Z’s “99 Problems.” If you’ve paid any attention at all to the second verse of the song, you’ll know Jay talks about how he himself had a little run-in with the police. Hopefully you’re not getting your legal advice from rap songs, but if you are, there are some good 4th Amendment points to be noted in this second verse, and after last week’s Supreme Court ruling in Rodriguez v. United States the scales are tipped even more in favor of Jay-Z in his “99 Problems” scenario than they were the day before.
In law school, a common joke that only a law student would find funny was “Jay-Z egregiously misstates the law. Lol.” There’s even at least one popular law review article that breaks down each line of the second verse of “99 Problems” and explains the issues with it. I wish writing something that cool, yet intelligent, would have been my claim to fame, but I was too busy being mature in Criminal Procedure, giggling about the professor continually saying “purge the taint,” which was ruined for everyone once an older classmate informed our professor why we thought the word “taint” was funny.
I’m not going to give you an entire legal lesson on the 4th Amendment. I paid an ass-ton of private law school tuition for mine, so that wouldn’t be fair. Also, if there’s a dissent with my line of reasoning, I make no warranties, because as with everything concerning the law, the real answer is always, “it depends.” However, here’s what Jay-Z was wrong (and is still wrong) about:
“I ain’t stepping out of shit, all my papers legit.”
Sorry, Jay, the legitimacy of your papers matter not; if asked to step out of the vehicle, you must, because the officer only needs reasonable suspicion that you are possibly armed to pat you down, as well as look for readily available weapons inside your vehicle, which, simply put, is rather easy to justify.
“Well, my glove compartment is locked, so is the trunk in the back, and I know my rights, so you go’n need a warrant for that.” Warrant? This is not your home, Mr. Z. Two words: Probable cause.
Even prior to this new Supreme Court decision, the rule was that a police officer could run a drug dog around a stopped vehicle, absent reasonable suspicion of illegal narcotics activity, so long as the investigation did not extend the stop beyond the time reasonably necessary to complete the tasks associated with issuing a ticket for the original infraction(s). However, the terms “reasonably necessary” were being interpreted in some jurisdictions as essentially meaning, “as long as it didn’t take a significant amount of additional time.” Therefore, when the “cop” in “99 Problems” says, “We’ll see how smart you are when the K9s come…,” Jay-Z was still at risk of a drug dog sniff, granted the K9 officer arrived and conducted the sniff within an amount of time arguably “reasonable” for issuing, in Jay-Z’s case, a speeding ticket.
Justice RBG put a stop to that noise. (Side note for those interested: She opposed drug-dog sniffs being constituted as “not a search” to begin with.) Now, prolongation of an ordinary traffic stop, regardless of how minimal, is unconstitutional, absent reasonable suspicion that the detainee is trafficking narcotics. Hova definitely has a better argument these days against waiting to get his shit sniffed by a delayed canine unit.
I always appreciate legal lessons in the form of fun rap tunes. For instance, as much as I despise Kanye as a human, his legal opinion concerning prenups is still largely accurate to this day: “It’s something that you need to have, ‘cause when she leaves yo ass, she gonna leave with half.” Prior to any successful rapper’s next album release, I’d be happy to give it a little looksey for legal accuracy… for a fee. I love some bling just as much as the Carters..
Read the entire Opinion here
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