A colleague stopped into my office the other day to ask “did the General Assembly get rid of citizen-initiated warrants?” No, but it did make some significant changes to the procedure.Continue reading →
The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals recently ruled (2-1) in Smith v. Munday, 848 F.3d 248 (4th Cir. Feb. 3, 2017), that a North Carolina officer was not entitled to summary judgment in a civil lawsuit for arresting the plaintiff allegedly without probable cause. This case is the subject of this post. Continue reading →
Search warrant applications are often based on information from confidential informants. Whether the informant is reliable is critical. Information from a reliable informant is often sufficient to establish probable cause, while information from an informant whose reliability isn’t established is often insufficient. So how’s a magistrate to know whether an informant is reliable? A recent opinion from the court of appeals provides an opportunity to examine that question.Continue reading →
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. Continue reading →
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. Continue reading →
Sometimes officers have probable cause to believe that a person committed a crime, have probable cause that evidence of the crime will be found in the person’s residence, and seek a search warrant for the address at which the residence is located, but fail to include in the application a statement that the address in question is, in fact, the suspect’s home. What happens then?Continue reading →
Here’s a common fact pattern: Officers find a person in possession of drugs. The officers say, in effect, “we won’t arrest you if you’ll tell us who sold you the drugs.” The person then reports having recently purchased the drugs from a particular person at that person’s home. Does this provide probable cause to support a search warrant for the supplier’s home? Continue reading →
Law enforcement officers often seek search warrants for suspects’ cell phones. When they do, judicial officials must determine what sort of evidence is needed to support the issuance of a warrant. Many people have their phones with them at all times, and use their phones to document and discuss every aspect of their daily activities. Does that mean that when an officer has probable cause to believe that a suspect committed a crime, the officer automatically has probable cause to search the suspect’s cell phone for evidence of the crime? Or does the officer need a more specific nexus between the crime and the phone?
Do the following facts provide probable cause to arrest for impaired driving?
An officer pulls behind a vehicle at a stoplight around 3 a.m. and sees that its registration is expired. He activates his blue lights, and the defendant turns into a nearby parking lot. When the officer approaches the car, the defendant tells him that his license is revoked for DWI. The officer smells a medium odor of alcohol coming from the defendant’s breath and sees that the defendant’s eyes are red and glassy. The officer performs an HGN test, noting 5 of 6 indicators of impairment. The defendant tells the officer that he had three beers at 6 p.m. the previous evening.
The court of appeals answered this question earlier this week in State v. Lindsey, ___ N.C. App. ___ (2016). Its answer, and the outcome of the case, may surprise you.
May an officer search a motor vehicle based on the officer’s detection of the odor of marijuana coming from the vehicle? May the officer search the occupants of the vehicle? Several recent cases address these questions. Continue reading →