search and seizure

Virginia v. Moore

Court below: 

 

In 2003, Virginia police stopped David Moore for driving on a suspended license. The officers then violated Virginia law by arresting Moore instead of issuing a summons. A follow-up search revealed cash and cocaine in Moore's pockets. Moore moved to suppress this evidence on grounds that the illegal arrest made the search unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment. Virginia responded that while Moore's arrest violated state law, the search was reasonable under the U.S. Constitution because it was incident to an arrest based on probable cause that he committed a crime. The trial court found the search constitutional and convicted Moore on drug charges. The Virginia Court of Appeals initially reversed but reinstated the conviction after hearing the case en banc. The Supreme Court of Virginia reversed the conviction, and Virginia appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. This case could affect many state laws concerning civil liberties and the way in which police think about illegal arrests.

Questions as Framed for the Court by the Parties 

Does the Fourth Amendment require the suppression of evidence obtained incident to an arrest that is based upon probable cause, where the arrest violates a provision of state law?

In 2003, police in Virginia were discussing over the radio that someone nicknamed "Chubs" (David Lee Moore) was driving in the area. Moore v. Commonwealth, 622 S.E.2d 253, 255 (Va. Ct. App. 2005), rev'd, 636 S.E.2d 395 ( Va. 2006), cert. granted, 128 S. Ct. 28 ( U.S. Sept. 25, 2007) (No.

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Utah v. Strieff

Issues 

Should courts suppress evidence obtained from a suspect after a police officer executes a valid arrest warrant, if the officer first illegally detained the suspect?

Court below: 

 

In 2006, an anonymous tip led Utah police officer Douglas Fackrell to investigate suspected drug activity at a house. After observing respondent Edward Strieff leave the house, Fackrell illegally detained him. During the stop, Fackrell learned Strieff had an outstanding arrest warrant. Fackrell arrested and searched Strieff, and found drugs and paraphernalia. In Strieff, the Supreme Court will decide whether evidence obtained incident to an illegal search should be admitted under the attenuation exception to the exclusionary rule. Generally, the exclusionary rule permits defendants to suppress evidence that has been obtained in violation of the Constitution. The attenuation exception, however, provides that evidence may be admissible if intervening circumstances have sufficiently weakened the taint of the original violation. Utah argues that the exclusionary rule only applies when it will deter future police misconduct. The state maintains that Fackrell did not flagrantly violate Strieff’s constitutional rights, and had a duty to arrest Strieff after discovering the arrest warrant. Accordingly, the rule would not deter misconduct. But Strieff contends the attenuation exception does not apply, because Fackrell could have foreseen that stopping Strieff illegally could have led to the discovery of a warrant. Strieff concludes that attenuation only applies when the “intervening event” that weakens the taint of Fackrell’s violation is unforeseeable. The Court’s decision could affect how police handle outstanding arrest warrants, and how judges balance Fourth Amendment protections with the need to admit relevant evidence.

Questions as Framed for the Court by the Parties 

Should evidence seized incident to a lawful arrest on an outstanding warrant be suppressed because the warrant was discovered during an investigatory stop later found to be unlawful?

In December 2006, an anonymous tipster reported drug activity at a Utah residence. See State v. Strieff, 2015 UT 2, 3 (2015). In response to the tip, police officer Douglas Fackrell conducted “intermittent surveillance” of the residence.

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United States v. Jones

Issues 

Whether law enforcement’s installation and use of a GPS tracking device to continuously monitor a person’s vehicle movements for an extended period of time violates that person’s Fourth Amendment right to be free of unreasonable or warrantless searches and seizures.

 

FBI agents installed a Global Positioning System (“GPS”) tracking device on Antoine Jones’s vehicle as part of a drug trafficking investigation. The United States used the locational data from the GPS in a federal trial that resulted in Jones’s conviction for conspiracy. The Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit reversed that conviction, holding that the agents needed a warrant before installing the GPS. The United States argues that a warrant was unnecessary because Jones had no reasonable expectation of privacy in his movements in public and was never deprived use of his Jeep. Jones responds that he has a privacy interest in the aggregation of his movements over a prolonged period and that the aggregation of such information interferes with his use of the Jeep. The Supreme Court’s decision will affect how police employ new technologies to reduce the manpower and cost required for criminal investigations. The Court’s decision will also consider how citizens can protect themselves from government officials’ possible abuse of new technologies, particularly where misuse threatens fundamental privacy rights.

Questions as Framed for the Court by the Parties 

Whether the warrantless use of a tracking device on respondent's vehicle to monitor its movements on public streets violated the Fourth Amendment.

In addition to the question presented by the petition, the parties are directed to brief and argue the following question: “whether the government violated respondent's fourth amendment rights by installing the GPS tracking device on his vehicle without a valid warrant and without his consent.”

In 2004, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”) launched an investigation on two business partners, Antoine Jones and Lawrence Maynard, for possible drug trafficking. See United States v. Maynard, 615 F.3d 544, 549 (D.C. Cir.

Acknowledgments 

The authors would like to thank Professor Sherry Colb for her insights into this case and former Supreme Court Reporter of Decisions Frank Wagner for his assistance in editing this preview.

Additional Resources 

• Wex: Privacy

• Verdict, Sherry Colb: One Way or Another, I’m Gonna Find Ya: The U.S. Supreme Court Considers Whether GPS Tracking of Suspects’ Cars Requires a Search Warrant (Sept. 21, 2011)

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United States v. Grubbs

Issues 

Anticipatory search warrants can only be executed after the occurrence of a “triggering event,” such as when a suspect takes possession of contraband from an undercover agent. If that event occurs as anticipated prior to the search, must the suspect receive notice of the triggering condition during the search through express reference to the triggering event in the language of the warrant itself or in a supporting affidavit accompanying the warrant?

 

Anticipatory search warrants are used by law enforcement to gain permission to perform a search where the probable cause mandated by the Fourth Amendment does not yet exist. Instead, probable cause is expected to materialize through the anticipated conduct of the suspect, such as when a suspect takes delivery of an illegal item or receives payment for an illegal act. Currently, there is a split between federal circuits as to how much information must be provided about a party against whom such a warrant is served. In this case, the Ninth Circuit reiterated its position that the Fourth Amendment requires the warrant to enumerate plainly the triggering event, just as it requires a particular description of the place to be searched and persons or items to be seized. The Ninth Circuit believes anticipatory warrants are particularly vulnerable to abuses of police power, and requiring the warrant to articulate the triggering event allows citizens to ensure that such searches are lawfully executed. The government argues, and other Federal Courts of Appeal have agreed, that the Fourth Amendment contains no such requirement, and the unique aspects of anticipatory warrants are adequately shielded from abuse by existing probable cause requirements inherent in the warrant application process.

Questions as Framed for the Court by the Parties 

Whether the Fourth Amendment requires suppression of evidence when officers conduct a search under an anticipatory warrant after the warrant’s triggering condition is satisfied, but the triggering condition is not set forth either in the warrant itself or in an affidavit that is both incorporated into the warrant and shown to the person whose property is being searched.

The following Facts is derived from the United State’s Supreme Court Brief, see Brief of the United States as Petitioner, and the Ninth Circuit’s amended opinion, see United States v. Grubbs, 377 F.3d 1072 (9th Cir. 2004).

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Tolentino v. New York

Issues 

Whether records obtained from a DMV database as the result of an unlawful search should be considered “identity-related” evidence, thus barring suppression of such records as “fruit of the poisonous tree”?

 

Following an automobile stop in Manhattan, New York police officers ran Petitioner Jose Tolentino’s driver’s license through a Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) database, discovering that his driver’s license had been suspended and that he had at least ten suspensions for failure to answer a summons or to pay a fine. Tolentino was indicted by a grand jury for aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle. On appeal, Tolentino argues his DMV records must be suppressed because they were the fruit of an unlawful stop. Respondent State of New York argues that, even if the stop was unlawful, the exclusionary rule should not be extended to apply to information the government already possessed, since such an application would be unreasonable. The Supreme Court will have to balance the cost of suppressing highly probative evidence against the potential benefit of discouraging police from conducting random automobile stops without probable cause.

Questions as Framed for the Court by the Parties 

Whether pre-existing identity-related governmental documents, such as motor vehicle records, obtained as the direct result of police action violative of the Fourth Amendment, are subject to the exclusionary rule?

In 1961, the United States Supreme Court held that evidence resulting from a violation of a defendant’s Fourth Amendmentrights was “fruit of the poisonous tree,” and could be suppressed by the defendant at trial. However, the Court subsequently held that neither a defendant’s body nor his identity were suppressible fruits, and thus were not subject to the 

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Acknowledgments 

Additional Resources 

· California Law Review: Exclusion of Evidence Obtained By Illegal Searches

· New York Department of Motor Vehicles: Dial-In Search for New York DMV Records

· MSNBC, Bob Sullivan: ChoicePoint Files Found Riddled With Errors (Mar. 8, 2005)

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Safford Unified School District # 1 v. Redding

Issues 

Whether the Fourth Amendment requires a stricter standard than reasonableness for student strip-searches, and if so, whether school officials conducting a strip-search have qualified immunity from suit for violation of Fourth Amendment rights.

 

Safford middle school officials strip-searched thirteen-year-old Savana Redding, seeking prescription-strength ibuprofen pills based on uncorroborated information from another student that Savana possessed ibuprofen in an unspecified time and location. This case concerns whether the school violated Redding's Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches and, if so, whether qualified immunity shields the school officials from liability. After a District Court and a Ninth Circuit panel found the search to be lawful, the Ninth Circuit reheard the case en banc; it reversed and held that qualified immunity did not protect the school official who ordered the search. Petitioners Safford Unified School District #1, et al. argue that the search was reasonable given the fellow student's tip and the threat of prescription drug abuse, but that even if it was not, school officials must have qualified immunity so they are free to exercise their judgment regarding drug abuse in schools. They argue that a decision in Respondent's favor would hamper school officials' ability to respond in the face of threats to student safety in school. Respondent April Redding argues that a strip search was unreasonable because the school lacked any indication that Savana had pills hidden in her undergarments, and that the school officials should be held responsible. She argues that a decision for Petitioner would enable school officials to conduct highly invasive searches based on only minimal, vague suspicion. This case promises guidance both to school officials seeking to carry out their duties effectively without violating students' rights and to lower courts responsible for assessing school officials' conduct.

Questions as Framed for the Court by the Parties 

(1) Whether the Fourth Amendment prohibits public school officials from conducting a search of a student suspected of possessing and distributing a prescription drug on campus in violation of school policy.

(2) Whether the Ninth Circuit departed from established principles of qualified immunity in holding that a public school administrator may be liable in a damages lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for conducting a search of a student suspected of possessing and distributing a prescription drug on campus.

In the fall of 2003, Safford Middle School officials were concerned about the distribution of prescription and over-the-counter-drugs among students. Bringing medicine on campus without permission violated school rules, and a student had recently become ill after ingesting a pill he allegedly received from a classmate.

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Carpenter v. United States

Issues 

 Can law enforcement acquire historical cell site location data without a warrant?  

In 2011, Petitioner Timothy Carpenter was arrested on suspicion of participating in a string of armed robberies in and around Detroit. In the course of the investigation, FBI agents acquired transactional records from Carpenter’s cell phone carrier. The government sought this data pursuant to the Stored Communications Act, which allows law enforcement to obtain communications records by demonstrating “specific and articulable facts” that the records are relevant to an ongoing investigation, rather than probable cause that a crime has been committed. The trial court denied Carpenter’s motion to suppress the records, and a jury convicted him of firearms violations and violations of the Hobbs Act. On appeal, Carpenter maintained that the acquisition of his cellular data without a warrant violated his Fourth Amendment rights, but the Sixth Circuit held that such a seizure did not constitute a “search” under the Fourth Amendment. Carpenter now challenges this classification of cell site data, arguing that the seizure of such data does constitute a search, and that the data is distinct from phone and bank records, which have not been afforded Fourth Amendment protection. This case could have significant consequences for the government’s ability to collect data that reveals a cell phone user’s location.  

Questions as Framed for the Court by the Parties 

Whether the warrantless seizure and search of historical cell phone records revealing the location and movements of a cell phone user over the course of 127 days is permitted by the Fourth Amendment. 

In April 2011, police arrested four men suspected of committing multiple armed robberies at Radio Shack and T-Mobile stores in Detroit and its surrounding suburbs. United States v. Carpenter, 819 F.3d 880, 884 (Sixth Circuit 2016). One of the men confessed to FBI agents, telling them that over a four-month period the group had robbed nine stores in Michigan and Ohio.

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Civil Forfeiture

Overview

Civil forfeiture occurs when the government seizes property under suspicion of its involvement in illegal activity. Such a proceeding is conducted in rem, or against the property itself, rather than in personam, or against the owner of the property; by contrast, criminal forfeiture is an in personam proceeding. For this reason, civil forfeiture case names often appear strange, such as United States v. Eight Rhodesian Stone Statues,

Kentucky v. King

Issues 

In emergency circumstances, police may enter and search a private residence without a warrant. Does this exception apply when police create the emergency circumstances through their own lawful action, such as knocking on a door?

Court below: 

 

While pursuing a known drug felon, police officers smelled burning marijuana emanating from behind a closed apartment door. After knocking and announcing themselves, the police heard shuffling within the apartment. Believing that valuable evidence was being destroyed inside, they entered the apartment, found a variety of drugs and drug paraphernalia and arrested Respondent Hollis Deshaun King. King claims that this entry and search violated his Fourth Amendment rights because there was no exigent circumstance which permitted the officers to enter his apartment without a warrant. The Commonwealth of Kentucky asserts that the smell of burning marijuana, in addition to the sounds of shuffling and movement within the apartment, validated the police's warrantless entry. To decide this case, the Supreme Court will have to weigh privacy interests against the need for police officers to safely and effectively perform their duties.

Questions as Framed for the Court by the Parties 

When does lawful police action impermissibly "create" exigent circumstances which preclude warrantless entry; and which of the five tests currently being used by the United States Courts of Appeals is proper to determine when impermissibly created exigent circumstances exist?

In October 2005, the police of Lexington-Fayette Urban County, Kentucky performed a “buy bust” operation in which a confidential informant attempted to buy crack cocaine from a suspected drug dealer. See King v. Kentucky, 302 S.W.3d 649, 651 (Ky.

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Herring v. United States

Issues 

Should the exclusionary rule be extended to situations where a police officer relies in good faith on an invalid warrant, when that reliance was the result of a clerical error made by an employee of a law enforcement agency?

 

In 2004, Alabama police officers arrested Bennie Dean Herring and, in a search immediately following the arrest, recovered methamphetamines and a handgun. The officers arrested Herring because they were erroneously told that that a warrant for his arrest existed. Herring moved to suppress evidence of the methamphetamines and gun, arguing that they were recovered as a result of an unlawful search, and consequently, that the exclusionary rule should apply. The United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit denied his motion, finding that the good faith exception to the exclusionary rule extends to good faith reliance by police officers on erroneous information provided by law enforcement personnel. In reviewing this case, the Supreme Court will decide whether the deterrent effect of excluding evidence obtained as a result of negligent error by law enforcement personnel outweighs the costs of excluding such evidence, or whether the good faith exception to the exclusionary rule should be extended.

Questions as Framed for the Court by the Parties 

Whether the Fourth Amendment requires evidence found during a search incident to an arrest to be suppressed when the arresting officer conducted the arrest and search in sole reliance upon facially credible but erroneous information negligently provided by another law enforcement agent.

On July 7, 2004, the petitioner, Bennie Dean Herring, went to the Coffee County Sheriff’s Department to retrieve items from an impounded motor vehicle. See Brief for Petitioner, Herring at 4. Investigator Mark Anderson, who knew Herring, asked warrant clerk Sandy Pope to check the Coffee County databases for outstanding arrest warrants for Herring. See 

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Additional Resources 

• CRS Annotated Constitution: Fourth Amendment “Search and Seizure”

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