It is settled law that the police may rummage through a person’s trash once it is put out to the curb for collection. “Trash pulls” are a routine part of drug investigations, where sufficient evidence of drug activity found in the garbage may support a search warrant for the associated residence. But how much evidence is enough? For example, if a person’s garbage contains the remains of a single marijuana cigarette, does that provide probable cause to believe that further evidence of drug activity will be present inside the house? Continue reading
Category Archives: Search and Seizure
For U.S. readers, the title of this post may not seem quite right. You’ve heard of stops, based on either reasonable suspicion or probable cause, and frisks for weapons following a stop. You know about racial disparities in criminal justice data. But, what’s stop and account? Stop and search? And, how do they differ from stops and frisks? As I’m in London for the fall, the answer is pretty obvious that these terms refer to police authority in the UK. What may be less obvious is how this authority resembles the stopping powers of law enforcement officers in the US. Continue reading →
To enter most courthouses these days, a person must submit to a security search. Often, one must walk through a metal detectors and pass one’s personal items through an x-ray device. Are these security procedures constitutional? Are there any limits to how intrusive they may be? Read more to find out. Continue reading →
Local law enforcement officers do not have statewide territorial jurisdiction to arrest. Instead, they generally are authorized to arrest only within the jurisdictional boundaries of the city or county they serve or own property owned by that city or county. See G.S. 15A-402 (discussed in detail here). Exceptions to the general rule permit out-of-jurisdiction arrests based on immediate and continuous flight and in certain other limited circumstances. When a law enforcement officer makes an arrest outside of his or her territorial jurisdiction, the person arrested may move to suppress the evidence resulting from the arrest. How should a court evaluate whether to grant such a motion?
Most search warrants are for homes or offices. Some are for vehicles. Less often, a search warrant is for a person. See generally G.S. 15A-241 (defining a search warrant as an order authorizing the search of “designated premises, vehicles, or persons”). When a search warrant authorizes the search of a person, how intensive may the search be? Specifically, may the executing officer conduct a strip search? Continue reading →
On Friday, the Supreme Court issued a long-awaited opinion in Carpenter v. United States. The Court held that when law enforcement obtains long-term cell site location information from a suspect’s service provider, it conducts a Fourth Amendment search that normally requires a warrant. Although the majority opinion states that it “is a narrow one,” the dissenting Justices and some scholars see it as a seismic shift that may have many aftershocks. I’ll summarize the case and then use former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s famous approach to address the “known knowns,” the “known unknowns,” and the “unknown unknowns” after Carpenter. Continue reading →
A couple of recent court of appeals opinions emphasize a bright-line rule in cases involving traffic stops. An officer who observes a driver commit a traffic violation may stop the driver to address that violation, even when the violation is minor and the officer has elected to respond to the observed violation because she suspects that other unsubstantiated criminal activity may be afoot.
Knock and talks are a common, useful, and sometimes controversial law enforcement tool. I thought that I would put together a post that summarizes the principal legal issues that they present. Continue reading →
I’ve blogged before about whether law enforcement officers may go to a side door, or the back door, when attempting to conduct a knock-and-talk. The court of appeals just decided another case on point, again holding that an officer generally may not do so. Continue reading →
A Fourth Amendment seizure does not occur when an officer turns on her patrol vehicle’s lights and siren to signal for a vehicle to stop. Instead, it occurs when a driver submits to that show of authority by stopping the car. Thus, if an officer lacks reasonable suspicion when she activates the siren, but gathers information sufficient to constitute reasonable suspicion by the time the vehicle stops, the traffic stop does not run afoul of the Fourth Amendment.
But what if the car is already stopped when the officer turns on the blue lights and siren? Have the occupants of the car then been seized for purposes of the Fourth Amendment? Not necessarily, as the court of appeals recently explained in State v. Turnage, __ N.C. App. ___ (May 15, 2018).