Date of Defense

Spring 3-25-2019

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Criminal Justice (MSCJ)


Sociology and Criminal Justice

Committee Chair

Dr. Christopher Totten

Committee Member

Dr. Gang Lee

Committee Member

Dr. Peter Fenton


This empirical study examines legal aspects of policing in relation to the recent, landmark United States Supreme Court case of Heien v. North Carolina. In Heien, the Court found that objectively reasonable mistakes of law by police can support traffic stops. By doing so, it extends the permissible margin of error for stops by law enforcement officers. Due to the potential, far-reaching implications of the Heien decision, including implications for law enforcement and for the Fourth Amendment privacy protections of individuals, it is important to better understand how the lower courts have interpreted and applied Heien. Therefore, key, recent interpretive lower court case law for Heien is also analyzed. Furthermore, it is also important to discover what law enforcement officers know about the Heien decision and how they may be applying it. This study aims to discern the level, degree, and nature of police officers’ knowledge and perceptions of Heien, including officers’ decision-making behavior with respect to Heien and its core concepts. Utilizing a survey questionnaire administered to line officers, this study seeks to shed light on police officers’ knowledge and perceptions of Heien. This is the first known study to empirically examine officers’ knowledge and perceptions of Heien.

Available for download on Wednesday, May 01, 2024