Strip Searches of Arrestees at the Jail after Florence

I’m just getting back to work after a leave of absence, and I’m still getting caught up on some major cases that were decided while I was out. One such case is Florence v. Board of Chosen Freeholders, __ U.S. __, 132 S. Ct. 1510 (2012), the jail strip search case recently decided by the … Read more

Fourth Circuit Adds to the Controversy over Traffic Stops

I’ve written about traffic stops at some length, in this paper. One of the areas in which the law is unsettled is the extent to which officers may engage in investigative activity during the stop that is not related to the purpose of the stop, especially if such investigative conduct prolongs the stop. Here’s what … Read more

Probable Cause: The Same for All Crimes?

Suppose that a magistrate is asked to issue a search warrant for a particular residence. Based on the information presented to her by the applicant, the magistrate believes that there is approximately a 25% chance that a search of the residence will result in the discovery of evidence of the crime under investigation. When deciding … Read more

Kentucky v. King and the Officer-Created Exigency Doctrine

Yesterday, the Supreme Court decided Kentucky v. King, a case that addresses — actually, eviscerates — the officer-created exigency doctrine. The facts are as follows: Officers investigating possible drug crimes smelled an odor of marijuana emanating from an apartment door. They banged loudly on the door and announced their presence. They heard people moving inside … Read more

Warrantless Searches of Computers and Other Electronic Devices

I keep a list of cases from across the country on warrantless searches of computers and other electronic devices. It covers topics like searches of cellular phones incident to arrest, whether consent to search a residence includes consent to search the computers therein, and whether there is a reasonable expectation of privacy in an employer-issued … Read more

Big News about Law Enforcement Access to Email

I’ve written about law enforcement access to electronic communications, both on this blog and, more extensively, in this Administration of Justice Bulletin. One major issue is how and when law enforcement can obtain a suspect’s email from the suspect’s email provider. There are lots of wrinkles, but broadly, there’s a federal statute called the Stored … Read more

The Exclusionary Rule and Probation Hearings

North Carolina’s appellate courts have long said that a proceeding to revoke probation is not a criminal prosecution or a formal trial. Instead, probation hearings are generally regarded as informal or summary. State v. Hewett, 270 N.C. 348 (1967). Formal rules of evidence do not apply at violation hearings, meaning hearsay is generally admissible. G.S. … Read more

Is Arizona v. Gant Limited to Automobiles?

In Arizona v. Gant, __ U.S. __, 129 S. Ct. 1710 (2009), the Supreme Court held that an officer may search an arrestee’s vehicle incident to arrest only if the arrestee is unsecured and “within reaching distance of the passenger compartment” or “it is reasonable to believe the vehicle contains evidence of the offense of … Read more

The “Battle” over Roadside Strip Searches

The Court of Appeals just decided State v. Battle, a case about roadside strip searches. It’s an important case for judges, lawyers, and especially officers. A confidential and reliable informant told police that Battle, her boyfriend, and another man would be going to Durham to buy cocaine, and returning by a specific route in a … Read more

Computer Searches and Plain View II

When a law enforcement officer is entitled to search a computer for evidence, she typically is entitled to look at every file on the computer, at least briefly. That’s because files that contain evidence of a crime may not be named drugtransactions.doc, but instead may be labeled airconditioningrepairbill.pdf, or something equally misleading and innocuous. Because … Read more