search and seizure

United States v. Wurie

Issues 

Does the Fourth Amendment require the police to obtain a warrant before searching an arrestee’s cellphone call log?

Boston police officers arrested Brima Wurie in 2007 for distributing crack cocaine. Among the items confiscated from Wurie was his cell phone, which rang repeatedly while he was detained. Without obtaining a warrant, officers looked through the phone’s call log, and with that information, determined the address of a residence where they found drugs, a firearm, and ammunition. At his criminal trial, the federal district court denied Wurie’s motion to suppress the evidence obtained as a result of the police’s warrantless search of his cellular phone. The court found Wurie guilty of possession of narcotics with intent to distribute, distributing cocaine base, and being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition. The First Circuit reversed the district court’s denial and vacated Wurie’s conviction, holding that the Fourth Amendment requires the police to obtain a warrant before searching an arrestee’s cell phone. The Supreme Court’s ruling in this case will help shape the contours of the Fourth Amendment’s protections against unreasonable searches and seizures in light of new technologies.

Questions as Framed for the Court by the Parties 

Whether the Fourth Amendment permits the police, without obtaining a warrant, to review the call log of a cellphone found on a person who has been lawfully arrested.

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Facts

On September 5, 2007, Boston police officers spotted an apparent drug deal inside Brima Wurie’s car, a Nissan Altima. See United States v. Wurie, 728 F.3d 1, 1 (1st Cir. 2013). Upon stopping Fred Wade, the man identified with the alleged drug sale, police discovered two bags of crack cocaine in his pocket.

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Navarette v. California

Issues 

  1. Does the Fourth Amendment require that an officer who receives an anonymous tip about a drunken or reckless driver corroborate dangerous driving before stopping the vehicle? 
  2. Does an anonymous, uncorroborated tip that a vehicle ran someone off the road create reasonable suspicion to stop the vehicle? 

In August 2008, a Mendocino County 911 dispatcher received a call from another county dispatcher reporting that a silver Ford truck had run another car off the road. The car occupants had anonymously reported that the truck ran them off the road. A police officer saw the truck, pulled it over, searched it, and found four large bags of marijuana, and arrested Jose and Lorenzo Navarette for marijuana transportation, possession, and sale. The Navarettes filed a motion to suppress evidence of the marijuana, arguing that the anonymous tip was not sufficient to justify the stop because the officer did not independently corroborate the alleged illegal activity. The magistrate judge denied the motion to suppress, and on appeal, the California Court of Appeal held that the officer had reasonable suspicion to stop the vehicle. The Supreme Court granted certiorari to decide whether an anonymous tip must be corroborated in order to create a reasonable suspicion of criminal activity. This case will impact the continuing development of Fourth Amendment law. The Navarettes argue that the Fourth Amendment requires independent corroboration of reckless driving in order for an anonymous tip to justify stopping a vehicle. California responds that because of the state’s interest in protecting the public, an anonymous tip can supply reasonable suspicion absent police corroboration. 

 

Questions as Framed for the Court by the Parties 

  1. Does the Fourth Amendment require an officer who receives an anonymous tip regarding a drunken or reckless driver to corroborate dangerous driving before stopping the vehicle?
  2. Does an anonymous tip that a specific vehicle ran someone off the road provide reasonable suspicion to stop a vehicle, where the detaining officer was only advised to be on the lookout for a reckless driver, and the officer could not corroborate dangerous driving despite following the suspect vehicle for several miles?

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Facts

On August 23, 2008, Mendocino County 911 dispatchers received a call from the Humboldt County dispatcher reporting that a silver Ford F150 pickup truck with an identified license-plate number had run another car off the road at mile marker 88 on southbound Highway 1. See People v. Navarette, 2012 Cal. App. Unpub. at 2–3, 2012 BL 268067 (Oct.

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Maryland v. King

Issues 

When state officials collect and analyze a DNA sample taken from a person who has been arrested for, but not convicted of, a criminal offense, is there a violation of the person’s right against unreasonable searches as guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment?

Court below: 

Maryland police arrested Alonzo Jay King, Jr., in 2009 for first- and second-degree assault. Under Maryland’s DNA Collection Act (the “DNA Act”), the police were authorized to collect King’s DNA. When the DNA data was added to the state’s database, it matched a prior set of DNA data collected in a separate 2003 rape case that remained unsolved. Using the 2009 DNA match as evidence, a Maryland trial court convicted King of the 2003 rape. The state’s highest court reversed King’s conviction, finding that the DNA evidence was improperly obtained during an unreasonable search. The court deemed the search unreasonable and thus unconstitutional under the Fourth Amendment because King’s right to the expectation of privacy was greater than Maryland’s interest in using his DNA to identify him. Still, the court upheld the constitutionality of the DNA Act overall. How the Supreme Court decides this case will reflect its view on the correct balance between the government’s interest in solving violent crimes using DNA evidence and an individual’s interest in retaining his Fourth Amendment right against warrantless, suspicionless searches.

Questions as Framed for the Court by the Parties 

Does the Fourth Amendment allow the States to collect and analyze DNA from people arrested and charged with serious crimes?

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Missouri v. McNeely

Court below: 

Tyler G. McNeely was arrested for drunk driving on October 3, 2010. After McNeely refused a breathalyzer and blood tests, Officer Mark Winder, acting without a warrant, directed hospital personnel to remove blood from McNeely. McNeely asserts that this action violated his Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. The State of Missouri responds that Winder’s action was constitutional because it fell into the “exigent circumstances” exception to the Fourth Amendment’s warrant requirement because the blood evidence was likely to be destroyed during the time it would take to obtain a warrant. McNeely also argues that bodily integrity is the core of the Fourth Amendment, that warrantless blood draws are unnecessary because other states have required warrants for blood draws and have not encountered difficulties enforcing DUI laws, and that judges and prosecutors overwhelmingly support warrants for blood draws. Missouri responds that blood testing is the best method of obtaining probative, relevant evidence of drunk driving, that blood draws typically involve little risk and pain, and that because alcohol naturally dissipates in a person’s bloodstream, evidence of drunk driving is continually destroyed.

Questions as Framed for the Court by the Parties 

Whether a law enforcement officer may obtain a nonconsensual and warrantless blood sample from a drunk driver under the exigent circumstances exception to the Fourth Amendment warrant requirement based upon the natural dissipation of alcohol in the bloodstream.

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Bailey v. United States (11-770)

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.

Issue

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?

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Florida v. Harris (11-817)

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?

 

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Issue

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?

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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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unreasonable search and seizure

A search and seizure by a law enforcement officer without a search warrant and without probable cause to believe that evidence of a crime is present. Such a search or seizure is unconstitutional under the Fourth Amendment (applied to the states by the Fourteenth Amendment), and evidence obtained from the unlawful search may not be introduced in court. (See also: fruit of the poisonous tree)

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