As mentioned in previous blogs, Police have been taking greater liberties with their searches and seizures of the public. On April 30, 2012, the Charlotte City Council expressed their desire for local law enforcement to search people at what the city deems "extraordinary events." Though no actual definition was offered for what constitutes an "extraordinary event", the definition apparently extends to protests and other events which will likely draw large crowds of people such as the Speed Street festival in May and the 4th of July celebration in uptown. Two additional upcoming events that have been deemed as an "extraordinary event" are Duke Energy's shareholders meeting, and Bank of America's shareholders meeting. Whenever the city designates an event as an "extraordinary event," the public is subject to much more restrictions within the event's boundaries. A list of prohibited items can be found here.
In reviewing the list of prohibited items, restrictions placed on more commonplace items such as coolers and backpacks are clearly questionable. Charlotte City Attorney Bob Hagemann argues that the prohibitions are not unduly restrictive. According to Mr. Hagemann, an officer would only be permitted to search someone if he believed they were carrying or concealing a weapon, thereby upholding the tenants of the 4th Amendment. In other words, as long as a citizen is abiding by the law, he will not be subject to a search of his possessions. Mr. Hagemann's statement certainly makes for a nice statement to the media. In my legal opinion, that is about where the truth of his statement ends. In reality, officers have great latitude in determining whether to search an individual. As a criminal defense attorney, I routinely examine Police interactions with the public, searches, seizures, etc. I believe this measure leaves entirely too much unfettered discretion for law enforcement.