search and seizure

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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Georgia v. Randolph

Issues 

Can police legally search the home of an occupant who consents to the search despite the objections of another present occupant?

Court below: 

 

In this case the Supreme Court will resolve the issue of whether or not police can legally search the home of an occupant who consents to a search despite the explicit objections of another occupant. Police searched the house of Mr. Randolph with the consent of his estranged wife but against his unequivocal objections. Randolph would have the Court find that the search violated his reasonable expectation of privacy guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment. Georgia, however, reasons that a joint tenant's reasonable expectation of privacy is not infringed in this case because joint tenants assume a reduced expectation of privacy. Thus, the Supreme Court's decision in this case will interpret the scope of the Fourth Amendment's protection against unreasonable searches of homes with multiple occupants.

Questions as Framed for the Court by the Parties 

Can police search a home when a co-habitant consents and the other co-habitant is present and does not consent?

On July 6, 2001, police arrived at the Randolph residence after Mrs. Randolph reported a domestic dispute with her estranged husband, Defendant Scott Randolph. Randolph v. State, 590 S.E.2d 834, 836 (Georgia, 2003). The couple had separated two months earlier, and Mrs. Randolph left the home at that time with their son to Canada. Id.

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Florida v. Harris

Issues 

Did the Florida Supreme Court err in creating an additional evidentiary standard that the state must satisfy before an alert from a well-trained drug-detection dog may suffice to establish probable cause?

Court below: 

 

Officer Wheetley stopped Clayton Harris’s truck for expired tags and searched the vehicle after his drug-detection dog alerted to the driver-side door handle. Officer Wheetley recovered precursors to methamphetamine, and at  trial  Harris alleged that Officer Wheetley did not have probable cause, or a reasonable basis, to search and violated his Fourth Amendment rights. On appeal, Harris argues that training alone cannot establish a dog’s reliability because there are no standard certification standards for drug-detection dogs, and dogs are likely to be influenced by outside factors that could affect their reliability. The State of Florida asserts that certification of a dog should be sufficient to prove  reliability,  and to provide  adequate  basis for a search. This decision implicates concerns of individuals’ right to privacy in their possessions and raises concerns of costs associated with increased evidentiary burdens in drug possession cases, which could hamper the states’ ability to prosecute drug offenders.

Questions as Framed for the Court by the Parties 

Whether the Florida Supreme Court has decided an important federal question in a way that conflicts with the established Fourth Amendment precedent of this Court by holding that an alert by a well-trained narcotics detection dog certified to detect illegal contraband is insufficient to establish probable cause for the search of a vehicle?

In June 2006, Officer William Wheetley stopped Clayton Harris’s truck because its tags had expired. See Harris v.&n

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Additional Resources 

E. Duncan Getchell, Jr. & Michael Brady, Florida Supreme Court Erred in Drug Dog Ruling, JURIST-Hotline, Apr. 23, 2012, http://jurist.org/hotline/2012/04/getchell-brady-florida-canines.php.

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Brendlin v. California

Issues 

When does a passenger in an automobile become “detained” during a traffic stop and thereby gain the ability to challenge the stop under the Fourth Amendment?

 

Bruce Brendlin was a passenger in a car driven by Karen Simeroth when she was the subject of a traffic stop by a County Deputy Sherriff. During the stop, the Deputy discovered drugs and drug paraphernalia in the car and on Brendlin. Brendlin was charged with manufacturing methamphetamine and moved to suppress the evidence on the grounds that the original traffic stop was unreasonable, and therefore in violation of his Fourth Amendment rights. The trial court denied his motion, and the California Supreme Court upheld the denial on the basis that Brendlin had not been “seized” under the meaning of the Fourth Amendment, and thus could not challenge the stop. Brendlin appeals to the Supreme Court, arguing that he was effectively seized by the initial stop, and therefore should be able to challenge it. California argues that Brendlin was not seized, because he should have felt free to leave the scene of the traffic stop, and did not actually submit to the application of force or to a show of police authority.

Questions as Framed for the Court by the Parties 

Whether a passenger in a vehicle subject to a traffic stop is thereby “detained” for purposes of the Fourth Amendment, thus allowing the passenger to contest the illegality of the traffic stop.

Early in the morning of November 21, 2001, a vehicle driven by Karen Simeroth was stopped by Deputy Sheriff Robert Brokenbrough in Yuba City, California under suspicion of an expired inspection. See People v. Brendlin, 38 Cal. 4th 1107, 1111 (Cal. 2006).

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Birchfield v. North Dakota

Issues 

Does a State violate the Fourth Amendment by criminalizing a driver's refusal to take a chemical test to detect blood-alcohol levels without a warrant?

 

The Fourth Amendment  of  the U.S. Constitution prohibits the government, or state governments, from carrying out “unreasonable searches and seizures” without a warrant. The Supreme Court has previously held that a chemical test for blood-alcohol content is a search. Several states have statutes that require drivers to consent to chemical tests as a condition of holding a  drivers   license,  or impose criminal and civil penalties—including revoking drivers’ licenses—if drivers refuse chemical tests during traffic stops. Petitioners Danny Birchfield, William Robert Bernard, Jr., and Steve Michael Beylund argue that these statutes violate the Fourth Amendment's protection against warrantless searches and that no exception to this constitutional protection applies. Respondents North Dakota and Minnesota contend that, by driving on state roads, drivers provide implied consent to chemical tests where police suspect that a driver is  intoxicated,  and that the governmental interest in preventing drunk driving outweighs any Fourth Amendment concerns. This case could shape how the courts consider the role of driving in Fourth Amendment jurisprudence and could either narrow or expand states' police powers in cases of suspected drunk driving. 

Questions as Framed for the Court by the Parties 

In the absence of a warrant, may a State make it a crime for a driver to refuse to take a chemical test to detect the presence of alcohol in the driver’s blood?

On July 6 and July 7, 2012, drivers driving under the influence of alcohol in North Dakota lost control of their vehicles and caused several tragic deaths. Brief for Respondent, North Dakota at 4–5.  In response, North Dakota passed Brielle’s Law, named after one of the victims. 

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Bailey v. United States

Issues 

May police officers, prior to executing a search warrant, follow and detain a person seen leaving the premises after that person leaves the immediate area?

 

Chunon L. Bailey was detained approximately a mile from his residence after two police officers observed him leave his home prior to the execution of a search warrant. The officers brought Bailey back to his home and arrested him after the search turned up drugs and a gun. Bailey seeks to vacate his conviction, arguing that the detention violated his Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable search and seizure. In this case, the Court must resolve a circuit split surrounding the application of Michigan v. Summers, which held that police may detain an occupant outside of the premises to be searched so long as the detention is reasonable. Bailey argues that Summers should not be extended to situations where the occupant has left the immediate vicinity of the premises to be searched, as this expansion would further none of the justifications described by the Court in that case. In response, the United States argues that the reasoning underlying Summers justifies this detention and that any potential Fourth Amendment issues can be resolved by a reasonableness test. If the Supreme Court sides with the United States and affirms the decision below, the scope of police power to detain occupants prior to the execution of a search warrant will be significantly expanded. 

Questions as Framed for the Court by the Parties 

Whether, pursuant to Michigan v. Summers, 452 U.S. 692 (1981), police officers may detain an individual incident to the execution of a search warrant when the individual has left the immediate vicinity of the premises before the warrant is executed.

On July 28, 2005, two officers of the Suffolk County Police Department executed a search warrant for a basement apartment at 103 Lake Drive in Wyandanch, New York. United States v. Bailey, 652 F.3d 197, 200 (2d Cir.

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Arizona v. Gant

Issues 

May a law enforcement officer conduct an automobile search as an incident to all lawful arrests, or must the officer reasonably fear for his own safety or for the integrity of the evidence before searching the automobile?

Court below: 

 

Police arrested Rodney Gant for driving with a suspended license. During a warrantless search of Gant’s car incident to his arrest, officers found a weapon and cocaine. Gant moved to suppress this evidence; the court denied his motion, and he was convicted of possession of drugs and drug paraphernalia. Gant claims the search was unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment because he was arrested for an unrelated charge and because neither officer safety nor the integrity of the evidence was imperiled. The State of Arizona argues that the Court should adopt a clear, bright-line rule that automatically permits officers to conduct a vehicle search contemporaneous to an arrest. The outcome of this case will affect law enforcement officers’ conduct during motor vehicle stops and accompanying arrests and vehicle searches.

Questions as Framed for the Court by the Parties 

Does the Fourth Amendment require law enforcement officers to demonstrate a threat to their safety or a need to preserve evidence related to the crime of arrest in order to justify a warrantless vehicular search incident to arrest conducted after the vehicle’s recent occupants have been arrested and secured?

On August 25, 1999, two uniformed police officers responded to a report of narcotics activity at a house in Tucson, Arizona. See State v. Gant, 162 P.3d 640, 641 (Ariz. 2007). Respondent Rodney Gant told the officers that the owner was not home but would return later. See id.

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