2012 Term Supreme Court Preview

It’s the first Monday in October, which means that the Supreme Court gets back to business after its summer recess. Among the criminal cases the Court will consider this Term are the following:

  1. Missouri v. McNeely. As noted in Friday’s News Roundup, this case asks “[w]hether 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.” Shea highlighted this case, and the split of authority on the issue presented, in this prior post. Obviously, this is a big deal for folks involved in DWI cases.
  2. Bailey v. United States, which presents a question I’ve been asked before: “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.” (In Bailey, the defendant left the premises by car and was a mile away when he was stopped and detained.)
  3. Chaidez v. United States, which asks whether Padilla v. Kentucky, __ U.S. __, 130 S. Ct. 1473 (2010) (holding that inaccurate advice concerning the immigration consequences of a criminal conviction may constitute ineffective assistance of counsel), applies retroactively to cases that have become final. Remember that the North Carolina Court of Appeals answered that question in the negative in State v. Alshaif, discussed here.
  4. Florida v. Harris, which asks in part whether “an alert by a well-trained narcotics detection dog certified to detect illegal contraband is []sufficient to establish probable cause for the search of a vehicle.” The concern in Harris is that the state showed that the dog was trained but didn’t introduce additional evidence of the dog’s accuracy or reliability, or lack thereof. Obviously, the Court’s answer to that question could have significant practical implications, and the case has attracted a lot of attention and multiple amicus briefs. I previously wrote about Harris, drug dogs, and North Carolina law here.
  5. Florida v. Jardines, which asks “[w]hether a dog sniff at the front door of a suspected grow house by a trained narcotics detection dog is a Fourth Amendment search requiring probable cause?” Probably not a circumstance that comes up as often as the dog-sniff-car scenario in Harris, but still interesting.
  6. Ryan v. Gonzales and Tibbals v. Carter both ask whether death row inmates in habeas proceedings must be competent, i.e., whether proceedings must be stayed if the inmate is incompetent.

Detailed coverage of all of the above cases can be found at SCOTUSblog, among other places.

There are a few other criminal cases, too, including another in the never-ending line of Armed Career Criminal Act cases, several additional habeas cases, a crimmigration case, and a case that considers an interesting double jeopardy question, but I thought that the ones listed above would be most significant for most readers. Of course, sometimes the cases that seem important before a Term begins are resolved in a way that isn’t earth-shaking, while cases that come in under the radar turn out to be landmarks. Stay tuned.

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