On April 11 of this year, a young lady, 20-year-old Elizabeth Daly, who attends UVA in Virginia was walking back to her car with a twelve pack of bottled water, some cookie dough, and some ice cream. Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control agents were creeping around the area, and apparently decided that a youthful appearance and some groceries is enough probable cause to search the student. Seven agents surrounded Elizabeth and her two friends in this dark parking lot, hours after the girls had attended a vigil called “Take Back the Night”, apparently having something to do with preventing rape.
When the 6 male agents and one female agent showed their shiny pieces of metal which some incorrectly believe confer officers extralegal privileges, the three young women could not be sure of the legitimacy, coupled with the fact that the agents wore plain clothes. Elizabeth, at the behest of her scared friend who said “Go, go, go” did what a reasonable woman would do when approached in the dark by seven strangers, and drove away, apparently committing the felony of “grazing” two officers with her car as she fled. Mind you, this was after one of the officer had jumped onto the hood of her car, another drew a gun, and others began smashing at the windows to try to gain access to the vehicle.
Elizabeth then did exactly what she should have done, drove away and called 911 to find out if she had indeed been assaulted by officers, or if the assault had been carried out by civilians. Apparently Elizabeth is not very well versed on her rights, or was in such a state of panic that she did not know how to act, but she actually apologized to the officers who had jumped her! These officers had no right to search her because they had no probable cause that she was under age nor did they even have probable cause to think she had alcohol, which she did not. After she refused the illegal search, in her own terms, the officers engaged in vandalism of property, and ultimately illegally detained her for over 24 hours. She was being detained, charged with felonies, because she had failed to submit to an illegal search by plain clothes officers who had no probable cause to even ask for her ID. The behavior of these ABC agents is appalling.
Even if she DID have alcohol, which she did not, this would have been a completely inappropriate way to handle it, starting with the fact that no one has to show their ID to an officer and prove their age, simply because they are in public with some kind of beverage in a shopping bag. The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable search and seizure shall not be violated. That is the Fourth amendment which was violated by these agents. An unreasonable search would include forcing a girl in a parking lot to show identification after assuming she was underage, and assuming she had alcohol. The facts that came to light after this incident show that the officers had no reason to suspect Elizabeth of being in possession of alcohol. Are we all to just put up with random searches, and be forced to show our papers if someone hiding behind a shiny badge says so?
I’m 24, and look younger, but if an officer asked me to prove my age after seeing me come out of a liquor store I would politely decline, because I have rights. Do you think this would go well for me? I could easily show my ID, and go on my way, but that is a violation of my rights. I have the right to go to a liquor store and continue on my way unmolested. Elizabeth certainly has the right to buy water and cookies without being searched, assaulted, and detained illegally. The Virginia Department of Alcohol Beverage Control had the nerve to post the following on Facebook.
Agents were working in the area, concentrating on underage possession enforcement. An agent observed what appeared to be an underage person in possession of what appeared to be a case of beer, and approached her to investigate… The agent identified herself as a police officer and was displaying her badge. Other agents did not join the incident until the subject refused to cooperate.
We take all citizen complaints seriously and the matter is currently under review by the ABC Bureau of Law Enforcement.
“After the subject refused to cooperate” with an illegal search, which was initiated because she was profiled by officers, and judged by her appearance to be a criminal, and assumed to be in possession of an illegal substance for someone of her assumed age. Police work at its best. The agents should be fired, or at least reprimanded. What if that was your daughter, or sister, or wife that was surrounded by 7 officers after committing no crime, scared until she fled, at which point she was arrested for crimes committed after an illegal search had already been initiated? Personally, I think that if an officer has initiated an illegal search, the person whose rights have been violated should not be held legally responsible for the actions they take to remove themselves from the situation. Do we forget that these people are victims? Just because the perpetrators have badges, why is it suddenly the victim of an illegal search, whose constitutional rights are violated, that is in the wrong because of their reaction to unlawful force?
I say make examples of these officers and of their department. Make sure that a situation like this does not turn deadly in the future, with an innocent girl gunned down by agents, or a not-so-innocent agent being run over by a fleeing victim. Our rights protect the civilian, but if properly respected, those same rights protect the actions of officers. If the actions of officers do not comply with our rights, we can not be held responsible for what happens next. The Daily Caller has the full story.