North Carolina Supreme Court Upholds a Magistrate’s Finding of Probable Cause to Issue Search Warrant to Search Home for Drugs

On December 21, 2016, the North Carolina Supreme Court in State v. Allman upheld a magistrate’s finding of probable cause to search a home for drugs, and it reversed a contrary ruling in this case by the North Carolina Court of Appeals. The Allman ruling is the subject of this post.

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North Carolina Supreme Court Upholds Search of Vehicle Located on Premises as Within Scope of Search Warrant

The North Carolina Supreme Court in State v. Lowe (December 21, 2016) ruled that a search warrant validly authorized a search of a vehicle parked on the driveway of the premises and within its curtilage, and it reversed a contrary ruling by the Court of Appeals (State v. Lowe, 774 S.E.2d 893, 21 July 2015). This post discusses the supreme court’s ruling.

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Recent North Carolina Case on Lack of Reasonable Suspicion to Make Vehicle Stop

Although reasonable suspicion requires less evidence than probable cause and often is not a difficult standard for an officer to satisfy to make an investigative stop, the standard requires an articulation of facts that is more than a mere hunch or suspicion. An example of the latter is last week’s North Carolina Court of Appeals opinion in State v. Watson (November 15, 2016), which ruled that an officer lacked reasonable suspicion to make a vehicle stop for illegal drugs. This post discusses the reasonable suspicion standard as applied in this case.

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Establishing Probable Cause in a Search Warrant to Link the Residence to Be Searched With the Evidence to Be Seized

Last week, Jeff Welty wrote a post concerning the failure to allege in a search application that the premises to be searched is the suspect’s home, and it included a discussion of State v. Parson (N.C. App., October 18, 2016). This post supplements his post by discussing the issue of establishing probable cause to link a residence to be searched with evidence to be seized, and by adding a few other comments on Parson.

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North Carolina Court of Appeals Finds That Erroneous Completion of Juvenile Waiver of Rights Form Did Not Bar Admissibility of Confession

Last week, the North Carolina Court of Appeals in State v. Watson (October 18, 2016) ruled that an officer’s erroneous completion of a juvenile waiver of rights form did not bar the admissibility of the juvenile’s confession. This post will discuss North Carolina statutory law concerning juvenile warnings and rights and the Watson ruling.

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What Constitutes Valid Consent When One Co-Occupant Consents and the Other Co-Occupant Does Not?

Generally, officers may obtain a valid consent to search only from a person whose reasonable expectation of privacy may be invaded by the proposed search. Sometimes two or more people—for example, spouses or roommates—share a reasonable expectation of privacy in the same place. Generally, either person may give valid consent to an officer. United States v. Matlock, 415 U.S. 164 (1974) (common authority over premises found). However, as discussed below, an exception to this general rule may exist when a physically-present occupant objects.

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An Officer’s Reasonable Mistake of Law and Recent Court of Appeals Ruling

The United States Supreme Court in 2014 ruled in Heien v. North Carolina, 135 S. Ct. 530 (affirming State v. Heien, 366 N.C. 271 (2012)), that an officer’s objectively reasonable mistake of law in making a stop or arrest is reasonable under the Fourth Amendment. Last week, the North Carolina Court of Appeals ruled in State v. Eldridge (September 20, 2016), that officer’s mistake of law when making a stop of a vehicle was not objectively reasonable based on the facts in that case. The Eldridge ruling is the subject of this post.

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North Carolina Court of Appeals Rules That Statutory Exclusionary Rule Does Not Bar Admission of Evidence Seized Pursuant to a Search Warrant Based on Allegedly Vague and Inaccurate Inventory of Seized Items

The Fourth Amendment’s exclusionary rule generally bars the introduction of evidence seized in violation of its provisions. State constitutions, statutes, and rules also may bar the introduction of evidence even when the Fourth Amendment’s exclusionary rule does not.

The preparation and service of an inventory of items taken during the execution of a search warrant is not likely a Fourth Amendment requirement, and thus the exclusionary rule would be inapplicable to inventory issues. Cf. State v. Dobbins, 306 N.C. 342 (1982) (a search warrant’s return not being sworn was not a constitutional violation).

On the other hand, G.S. 15A-974 bars under some circumstances the introduction of evidence obtained in violation of Chapter 15A of the General Statutes. Evidence is to be excluded if: (1) it is obtained as a result of a “substantial” violation of Chapter 15A, and (2) the officer committing the violation did not act under an objectively reasonable good faith belief that his or her actions were lawful.

Last week, the North Carolina Court of Appeals in State v. Downey (September 6, 2016) considered a defendant’s argument that G.S. 15A-974 should have barred evidence seized pursuant to a search warrant because an officer allegedly did not comply with G.S. 15A-254, which essentially requires the completion an inventory of seized items and leaving a copy in the manner set out in the statute. The Downey ruling is the topic of this post.

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North Carolina Court of Appeals Finds Exigent Circumstances to Enter Home Without a Warrant to Conduct Protective Sweep for Officer Safety and to Prevent Destruction of Evidence

The United States Supreme Court has stated that the “physical entry of the home is the chief evil against which the wording of the Fourth Amendment is directed” and that “searches and seizures inside a home without a warrant are presumptively unreasonable.” Payton v. United States, 445 U.S. 573, 585-86 (1980). So in an ordinary case officers will need an arrest warrant to enter a person’s house to make an arrest of the resident or a search warrant to search for and seize property there. There are a few exceptions to the warrant requirement: (1) obtaining consent to enter from an appropriate person, (2) probable cause and exigent circumstances, (3) making a protective sweep of a home for dangerous people when an officer is there to make an arrest, (4) entering a home to seize weapons for self-protection, and (5) entering a home to render emergency assistance to an injured occupant or to protect an occupant from imminent injury. See generally Arrest, Search, and Investigation in North Carolina (4th ed. 2011) at pages 66-73 (entering premises to arrest), 217-18 (probable cause and exigent circumstances), 232-33 (entry or search of home to render emergency assistance or for self-protection). A new edition of this book will be available this coming winter, possibly as soon as December 2016.

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