David Sosa, David Sosa, David Sosa & David Sosa Take Their Case to the Supreme Court

EQRoy / shutterstock.com
EQRoy / shutterstock.com

A group of men who are all named David Sosa, each hailing from different states, have filed a brief of amici curiae with the Supreme Court on behalf of another man named David Sosa. This is one of those interesting “It could happen to anyone” cases that the Supreme Court will hopefully rule on. Imagine if someone else in America shares the same name as you, but they are a wanted cocaine trafficker in another state, and then the cops pull you over. The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals says that the cops could hold you in custody for several days—even after they verify that they’ve arrested the wrong person!

The David Sosas filing the case in support of another David Sosa are 32-year-old David Sosa from Iredell County, NC; 51-year-old David Sosa from Mecklenburg, NC; 32-year-old David Sosa from Los Angeles; and 50-year-old David Sosa, also from Los Angeles.

The case stems from when a totally different David Sosa, from Martin County, Florida, was pulled over in a traffic stop in Florida. The police found an outstanding warrant for a David Sosa from Texas for cocaine trafficking. The David Sosa from Texas has been on the lam since 1992. The David Sosa from Florida was held in jail for three additional days, even after the police realized that he was the wrong David Sosa.

The Florida David Sosa sued on the grounds that they should have let him go immediately upon realizing he wasn’t the cocaine trafficker David Sosa. The 11th Circuit Court disagreed, so the law that you can be held for up to three days even if the cops know they arrested the wrong person now stands in Florida, Georgia, and Alabama.

The David Sosas filing the brief of amici curiae argue that they are not David Sosa the Texan cocaine trafficker. The brief states:
“To be clear, that’s not the David Sosa who chairs the philosophy department at the University of Texas. Nor is it the New York-based songwriter David Sosa. It’s also not the David Sosa who’s a cardiologist in Albuquerque, the one who works at the USDA, the law student at University of Miami, or the David Sosa who owns a construction company in Winston-Salem.”

There are at least 924 David Sosas in the United States, and only one of them is a cocaine trafficker in Texas. The brief argues that all the other David Sosas, including the one they petitioned on behalf of, can no longer travel to Florida, Georgia, or Alabama, out of fear they could be jailed for three days on a case of mistaken identity. They have a point.

This is really a Fourth Amendment case that will protect everyone’s rights if the Supreme Court rules similarly to how it has in other cases. For example, if police serving a search warrant realize that they’re in the wrong apartment—which happens all the time—the court has ruled that they must immediately stop the search and correct the error.

In a 1983 case, the Supreme Court held that police had “seized” a person’s luggage from an airport for far too long to be reasonable. The courts have also held that it’s a violation of the Fourth Amendment for police impounds to hold vehicles for 30 days before releasing them.

The petitioners argue that if the Fourth Amendment applies to luggage, apartments, and cars, then it certainly applies to people. Until the Supreme Court finally does rule on David Sosa’s case, it’s probably a good idea for all of the David Sosas out there to avoid Florida, Georgia, and Alabama.