It is not uncommon to see a car double-parked, parked too far from the curb or parked in a no parking zone. Typically, this can lead to parking ticket. Now the case of Johnson v. United States heard in the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals (whose jurisdiction includes Indiana) that examines whether a bad parking job is probable cause for search or seizure of a vehicle, which subsequently could lead to arrest and jail if the officials find anything illegal.
Law enforcement already has probable cause for pulling drivers over if they see something they deem to be suspicious, such as reckless driving, weaving in the lane or even forgetting to use a turn signal.
A proportionate response?
Law enforcement is supposed to respond with a proportionate response to the offense charge. This means that the officer should not draw his or her weapon if someone is caught driving 10 miles over the speed limit. It could mean that searching a vehicle should not be necessary for a bad parking job.
Unfortunately, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals does not see it that way. It ruled that two squad cars and five Milwaukee police officers could surround a car parked too close to a crosswalk on a -20 degree night while an occupant ran inside to make a purchase. The officers found a gun and arrested Randy Johnson on weapons charges. Johnson, who had a prior felony conviction and was sought for another crime, argued the response by police to a bad parking job on a cold night was not proportionate.
Import reminder that rights need to be protected
Minor infractions can lead to charges that are more serious. This is why it is important for those facing charges to hire an attorney who will fight to protect their client’s rights. This can happen by negotiating to reduce the charges to a more appropriate level or fighting criminal charges that based on a bad parking job.