M.I Abaga, I am not sure this was the video to release to the public, albeit a very good and funny one. However, you give folks like me great headlines to run with AND great teaching lessons. Thanks. 🙂 Folks, it’s a funny video where Nigeria’s prominent rapper MI Abaga is detained and accused of possession of 50kg of cocaine under his car seat. The video is funny because it is not real. However, nothing about it is funny because it is a common occurrence here in the USA. It is also an occurrence that is beginning to affect our young men in the African diaspora community, who make these kinds of terrible choices.
In the video:
1. M.I gave consent for his vehicle to be searched.
2. He later says the vehicle was not his. So why did he give consent for someone else’s car to be searched?
3. The search was conducted without a warrant. The government officers find 50kg of cocaine underneath his car seat.
4. The vehicle was parked in a compound as opposed to being on the freeway.
5. When he is detained (and) they asked him for a statement, he gave a statement.
6. He later had the common sense to ask for Audu (THE LAWYER).
The beauty about the video clip is that IT WAS FAKE! M.I felt relieved and I am happy for him.
I do not know search and seizure laws in Nigeria. I have never practiced criminal defense law there, but I’d like to think I know a thing or two about search and seizure laws here in the USA.
Check it people, especially AML artists based in the USA, again, there is an increase in young African men, including 1st and 2nd generation kids born in the USA, getting locked up. It never used to be the case. We can save the discussion on the rise of our young people in America’s jails and prison systems for another day.
Suffice it to say that if you ever find yourself in M.I’s situation, DO THE OPPOSITE of everything he did in this video in this post.
Let’s look at the the video from a USA perspective.
What law is at play in the MI Video from a US perspective: 4th Amendment Search and Seizure Law
What does the 4th Amendment actually say? It says, “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”
What is a search? The law defines a search as the government’s intrusion (usually the police) into an area where YOU have a REASONABLE AND JUSTIFIABLE EXPECTATION OF PRIVACY. Is a car a place you would expect to have some privacy? But of course!
What is a seizure? When you are stopped by a police officer and you are not free to go, then the police i.e. a government agent is exercising control over you. Such an exercise of control is a seizure of your person. They can also exercise control over the things you own.
What is an Unreasonable Search and Seizure?
Where a search or seizure is conducted without a warrant, it is, for the most part, considered unreasonable. Although, there are many exceptions to the general rule. Indeed, there is a whole body of law to this that is rather extensive and is what we lawyers go to school for and have to know to defend our clients. So, trying to break it down is simply a bit much. However, for the sake of brevity and going back to M.I’s case, if the police stops you and says can I search your car, your answer better be an emphatic “NO.” If they ask to search your person, your answer better be “NO!”
There should be no voluntary giving of a statement as in M.I’s case. Often, especially Africans and just people that are coming across the criminal justice system for the first time, we feel the need to just put it all out on the table thinking we will clearly be exonerated. Newsflash. It don’t work that way. Every statement and sentence can and will be used against you in a criminal court of law. Zip it until you talk to your lawyers. In the USA, if the police is accusing you of a crime and detaining you or making an arrest as they appeared to be doing in M.I’s case, they better be giving you your Miranda warnings i.e.
1. You have the right to remain silent.
2. If you give up the right to remain silent, anything you do and say can and will be used in a court of law against you.
3. You have the right to speak with an attorney of your choice before questioning, and to have the attorney present during questioning.
4. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you by the court before any questioning, if you so desire. The attorney will not cost you anything; the services are free.
5. Do you understand each of these rights as explained to you?
6. Having in mind and understanding your rights as explained to you, are you willing to talk to me (the police)?
Finally, if you look at the language of the 4th Amendment, you cannot be arrested without probable cause. How do you know what probable cause is? The law says probable cause is when an officer has, within her knowledge, reasonably trustworthy facts and circumstances sufficient to warrant a reasonably prudent person to believe that the suspect has committed or is committing a crime.
Huh? Basically, it is reasonable suspicion by the police to believe that criminal activity is taking place and you are the one or part of the crew making the criminal activity happen.
NOTE: M.I, under US law, cannot generally give consent for officers to search property that does not belong to him. There are limited instances where this is permissible. He also has the right to revoke that (his own ) consent (to his own property once he gives it), although there are also exceptions to this rule.
If ALL of this is so over your head, then do yourself a big favor: #1) stay out of trouble; #2) if trouble finds you, tell trouble, “I NO SEND YOU” and then do the opposite of what M.I did. Common that’s gotta be easy to remember after you watch the video; and #3) have your criminal defense lawyer on speed dial.
Two people you cannot live without on this earth, your lawyer and your accountant. 🙂