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Wisconsin prosecutors helping NC win case regarding police searches

MADISON, WI (WTAQ) - Wisconsin is helping North Carolina police try to win a U.S. Supreme Court case that challenges the rights of officers to search vehicles they stop for burned out tail lights.

It's similar to a Milwaukee case that police lost earlier this month.

In the North Carolina case, a sheriff's deputy stopped a car on an Interstate because it only had one working tail light. After the driver consented to a search, a backseat passenger was found to have cocaine and was arrested for that.

The defense said North Carolina only requires one working tail light, and the state said the arrest should be upheld anyway. It said the search was "objectively reasonable" and did not violate the Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable searches -- even if the car was stopped by mistake.

Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen said Monday that the Badger State supported that stance in its legal brief. 18 other states and Washington D.C. have signed onto the Badger State's argument.

Earlier this month, the Wisconsin Supreme Court reversed a car passenger's gun conviction, saying Milwaukee Police should have never stopped the vehicle -- which had a series of tail lights with only one of them burned out.

On a slim 4-3 vote, the Wisconsin justices said the single burn out was not enough to find the entire tail light defective.

(Story courtesy of Wheeler News Service)