Tag Archives: 99 problems

How valid is the implied legal advice in Jay-Z’s “99 Problems”?

Whilst reading a pdf I’d saved to pocket, probably from an RT on twitter, of the best questions and answers on Quora 2010-2012 I came across something of a gem that I wanted to share…

How valid is the implied legal advice in Jay-Z’s “99 Problems”?

Ryan Lackey, Mostly harmless.

Fairly valid, although it depends on the state; I’m not familiar with the laws of 1994, and the location is unspecified, but from the video, possibly Brooklyn, NY.
Here’s my take on the song:

The year is ninety-four, in my trunk is raw
In my rear-view mirror is the motherfuckin’ law
Got two choices y’all, pull over the car or (hmm)
bounce on the Devil, put the pedal to the floor
And I ain’t tryin’ to see no highway chase with Jake
Plus I got a few dollars, I can fight the case

Not running from the police seems like excellent advice.

So I, pull over to the side of the road
“Son, do you know why I’m stoppin’ you for?”
Cause I’m young and I’m black and my hat’s real low
Or do I look like a mindreader, sir? I don’t know
Am I under arrest or should I guess some more?

In general, not volunteering information at a traffic stop is great advice.

“Well you was doin fifty-five in the fifty-four;
license and registration and step out of the car –
are you carryin a weapon on you? I know a lot of you are”
I ain’t steppin out of shit, all my papers legit

Unless the cop can testify to reasonable suspicion [RS] that the defendant is armed — in which case he can search the driver and immediate vicinity for weapons for self protection — you shouldn’t need to get out of the car. Pushing back on this makes sense, if only to ensure whatever RS grounds would be documented, so they can get the case thrown out later. If the RS was invalid or not present, all evidence coming after that is “fruit of the poisoned tree” and discarded.

Jay-Z 99 Problems

“Well do you mind if I look around the car a little bit?”
Well my glove compartment is locked,
So is the trunk in the back,
And I know my rights, so you gon’ need a warrant for that

Consenting to a voluntary search is never a good idea, especially if you have felony weight on you. The standard to search the glove compartment is actually fairly low in California, since it’s accessible to the driver. Even though it is locked, the tenth circuit court of appeals has found that during a protective search of the vehicle (i.e., looking for weapons with RS), the glove box can be searched since it being locked may not prevent the driver from gaining control of a weapon. [1] The trunk can be opened if the car is impounded, for inventory reasons, which is a common way to get evidence. However, a locked case inside the trunk will not be opened (depends on the state).

“Aren’t you sharp as a tack! You some type of lawyer or somethin,
somebody important or somethin?”
Child I ain’t passed the bar, but I know a little bit
Enough that you won’t illegally search my shit
“Well we’ll see how smart you are when the canine comes”

A canine can only be used during a routine traffic stop if it doesn’t unduly delay the driver — it’s reasonable to walk back to your cruiser to get a dog, but you can’t wait to call one in.

This all goes out the window if reasonable suspicion is developed.

I got 99 problems, but a bitch ain’t one
Hit me!

[1] US v. Palmer, 360 F. 3d 1243 – Court of Appeals, 10th Circuit 2004

I will continue to read the pdf and report back with any more gems…


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