If there are two things that go together perfectly in this world, it is rap music and the law. And your author was an expert on both while spending his three year vacation at one of the world’s elite law schools. Okay, so he was an expert on rap music.
Anyhoo. In yet another attempt to win the hearts and the minds of America, Legal Ease is launching a new series: identifying that 10 best rap songs to ever deal with the subject of law. (Oh, and we’re going out of order because going out of order is what’s hot in the streets right now.)
#3 on the list is “99 Problems” by Jay-Z.
The song that brought Rick Rubin out of semi retirement and caused this author’s wife to wonder how Beyonce felt about the lyrics is underrated … underrated for its examination of 4th Amendment search and seizure issues, that is!
I mean, just look at the (incorrect) analysis Shawn Carter packs into this screed against the boys in blue:
- He doesn’t want to engage in a highway chase with the police and believes that with his “few dollars” he can fight the case; opting to “pull over to the side of the road” in a civil fashion.
- When the cop demands license and registration and asks Jay-Z to “step out of the car,” S-Dot Carter exclaims that he most certainly will not comply with that request.
- Here, he seems to be banking on a Constitutional protection that would perhaps dovetail from the “knock and announce” search and seizure lies laws that apply to one’s home. Alas, it doesn’t work with a car. In fact, the 1977 Supreme Court case of Pennsylvannia v. Mimms held that a police officer “as a matter of course” may order the driver of a lawfully stopped car to exit the vehicle. (Jay’s one argument here might be that the car was not in fact lawfully stopped since he was only going “fifty-five in a fifty-fo’”.)
- The cop, clearly not understanding the ramifications of Penn v. Mimms (no relation to the artist who gave us “This is Why I’m Hot”), lets Jay-Z stay in the car but asks if he can “look round the car a little bit.”
- Not so fast, says Jay-Z. His glove compartment is locked, as is his trunk (“In the back” – just to clarify that this is not a Volkswagon Bug) and his rights – as he perceives them – indicate that the cop is going to need a warrant.
- Actually, a cop does not need a warrant to conduct a search, provided the search can meet one of two conditions: 1) there is no violation of a person’s reasonable expectation of privacy, or 2) the search falls within one of several established exceptions to the warrant requirement. Those exceptions include: the automobile exception, the consent exception, the plain view exception … wait, why are we still listing them!
- Clearly, Jay-Z does not understand that The Automobile Exception to the warrant requirement gives the racist cop (the cop is racist, right?) the authority to search his glove box. Or his trunk, whether in front or back. In fact, provided that the “law enforcement officer” has probable cause to believe that the vehicle contains evidence of a crime and that there are “exigent circumstances” making it impractical to obtain a warrant, he can search every part of the vehicle, including the trunk and any “closed containers.”
- Jay-Z admits here that he didn’t “pass the bar or nuthin” and that much is clear, given all the gross errors!
- Once again though, the cop just lets Jay-Z push him around with his faulty understanding of the law and resorts to calling in the dogs. All’s well that ends well for the cop though, because he gets to snarl and wonder how smart Jay-Z will look “when the canines come.” Plus, he officially adds one problem to Shawn Carter’s 99.
In the end, it is Cop 1, Jay-Z 0 … and it all adds up to the #3 Legal Rap song of all time.