Local News

Judge allows Fayetteville police to continue consent searches

Posted March 1, 2012

— A Super Court judge on Thursday granted an injunction to allow Fayetteville police to continue searches of vehicles after officers make a traffic stop and obtain the driver’s consent.

The Fayetteville City Council voted 8-2 last month to put consent searches on hold for 120 days while a consultant investigates claims that the practice disproportionately targets black drivers.

Fayetteville Police Chief Tom Bergamine and the North Carolina Police Benevolent Association decried the council's decision, saying it was unlawful and that consent searches are an important law enforcement tool. They filed a lawsuit last week seeking to resume the practice. 

"It was our concern that taking that away would jeopardize their safety, not only of the officers, but of the suspect who might be stopped and other bystanders," said Mike McGuinness, a lawyer for the association. 

Consent searches, which allow police officers to ask a driver's permission to search a vehicle without establishing probable cause, are legal under North Carolina law.

Fayetteville police Fayetteville police to continue consent searches for now

The State Attorney General's Office backed Bergamine's assertion that the council overstepped its boundaries.

Wilmington Judge Greg Bell's decision means police can resume searches until at least March 12, when another hearing is set at the Cumberland County Courthouse. 

The City of Fayetteville released a statement Thursday afternoon saying that a written consent form officers must use to get permission to conduct the search is being drafted. The searches will resume with the use of the written forms on Monday. 

Mayor Tony Chavonne said that is also the date a consultant's report on the matter is due. 

"Regardless of the court ruling today, the moratorium was going to end on the 12th anyway. So, it's not really a significant factor here," Chavonne said. "The report is more important. The potential policy change is more important. Our responsiveness to the community and restoring confidence in the police force is more important." 


This story is closed for comments.

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  • JustOneGodLessThanU Mar 5, 2012

    @justdontgetit, if you live in a "high crime area", how do you avoid driving there?

    And, if the police don't have Probable Cause for a crime, they cannot search your car...so your "DON'T BREAK THE LAW" advice does not apply to the people in this story.

    Care to try again?

  • justdontgetit Mar 2, 2012

    Well I see that as many also agreed with me before that I was right about this and that the City Council overstepped its powers by doing this so I hate to say I told ya so but...... And now I see that the racial card is being pulled out now that this has turned back in favor of the officers. So let me ask this.. If an African American officer has pulled over an African American driver is this still consider racial profiling or racial descrimination? Or does that just apply when the 2 aren't of the same race? They are just doing their jobs people if you dont want to get stopped and asked if you can have your car searched by the police there are ways... dont be in high crime areas for one and well the other is just plain as day... DON'T BREAK THE LAW to begin with and you dont have anything to worry about!

  • abylelab -BT- Mar 2, 2012

    +++They are 100% legal. No council, even Fayetteville's, can override state law.

    true, consent searches are legal. however, the wording of the state law only says that police officers must obtain permission prior to the said consent search, it does not say explicitly that they can ASK for permission.

  • abylelab -BT- Mar 2, 2012

    +++U.S. Supreme Court is a little wiser than the Fayetteville City Council...this was a bone head move!!!

    except that the supreme court rulings pertain to the 4th ammendment violations of illegal search and seizure. the rulings are that asking for permission to search does not violate the 4th. however, if there were a law in place that did not allow it, those rulings wouldn't matter, b/c it would not violate the 4th.

  • piene2 Mar 2, 2012

    "So if a cop wants to search my car and I say no, which I will, can they hold me there until a warant arives? Just wondering.

    Or if you happen to be black, beat the dickens out of you. It is all about race.

  • we2hedonists Mar 2, 2012

    I will believe L2dostuff on this one. You were a cop in the early posts until you saw the anti-sentiment in the comments. Now you’re not a cop. I know that L2dostuff is exactly what he claims and know the man very well since he teaches at my grandsons school and volunteers to help our local police department. His moral character is of a person who is not a liar. No I do not believe he is making stuff up but think that you are.

  • Common Sense Man Mar 1, 2012

    And I'd hardly call me the resident cop; I don't comment much on here anymore. The comments are too useless.

  • Common Sense Man Mar 1, 2012

    "Fayetteville is 45% white and 39% black.

    If 3 out of 4 searches are against blacks, there’s still a problem."

    How about look at the population of high crime areas and get back to me.

  • Common Sense Man Mar 1, 2012

    "But, I was always told the SHP/Sheriff/City etc (and most other police for that matter) have a book which is “The Fundamental Code of Conduct and Ethics”…..everyone from the mail room clerk, secretary through the commander (active and retired) must follow. It said that you are NOT permitted to use social networking sites (such as this forum) to comment on any police cases and protocol. So my question is: Aren’t you violating that fundamental code of ethics and conduct by being on this forum? Just wanted to ask since you are……you know, the resident cop and seem to know about this."

    Uhhhhh, no. And you're making stuff up.

  • tiredofthenet Mar 1, 2012

    Consent searches were made legal by the US Supreme Court many years ago, so I don't know where illiterate country folk from Fayetteville think they can override that decision. How frightening is it that people with no legal education pretend to understand the law. Oh and unblanken, yes they would need a warrant unless they have reason to arrest you. Then they can search your car without a warrant if it is the department policy to search cars incident to arrest.