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

“Cigar Guts”

Earlier this week, the court of appeals decided State v. Simmons, a search and seizure case that should interest officers, lawyers, and judges. The facts are simple: an officer stopped a driver for not wearing his seat belt. It turned out the the driver’s license was revoked, so the officer cited the driver for that, … Read more

Searching Cell Phones for Evidence of Texting While Driving

The Ohio Supreme Court recently ruled that cell phones generally cannot be searched without a warrant incident to arrest. That court’s decision is here. The law in North Carolina appears to be otherwise, as I’ve noted here and here. But reading the Ohio decision reminded me of a topic some colleagues and I were discussing … Read more

Drug Testing of Probationers as a Warrantless Search

The principal probation reform bill (S.L. 2009-372 [S 920], summarized here) went into effect on December 1. Since then, I’ve received a number of questions about it, many of them from probation officers. One of their main concerns relates to the way some of the amendments to the law are reflected in the new AOC … Read more

Search Warrants for “All Persons on the Premises”

I have been asked several times about the validity of search warrants that authorize the police to search a particular place and “all persons on the premises.” It sounds as though such warrants are most often requested in drug cases. A number of courts across the country have ruled on the validity of these “all … Read more

New Publication on Electronic Search and Seizure

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m especially interested in the law regarding electronic communications and electronic evidence. (For one thing, it allows me to look at web sites like Gizmodo and claim that I’m working.) I’ve previously published a paper on law enforcement use of GPS tracking devices, as well as several blog posts about electronic … Read more

Traffic Stops, Part II

I noted yesterday that a law enforcement officer conducting a traffic stop may order the driver and any passengers out of the vehicle. It’s also reasonably clear that the officer can order the vehicle’s occupants to remain in the vehicle. Robert L. Farb, Arrest, Search, and Investigation in North Carolina 30 & n.160 (collecting cases). … Read more

Traffic Stops

As one eminent Fourth Amendment scholar has observed, “[i]n recent years more Fourth Amendment battles have been fought about police activities incident to . . . what the courts call a ‘routine traffic stop’ than in any other context.” 4 Wayne R. LaFave, Search and Seizure § 9.3 (4th ed. 2004). Because so many criminal … Read more

Computer Searches and Plain View

Computers and electronic storage media can hold massive quantities of data. At approximately 30,000 pages per gigabyte, a low-end laptop computer with a 250 gigabyte hard drive can store the equivalent of more than 7 million pages of paper. That’s thousands of bankers’ boxes worth, or as many pages as you’d find at a branch … Read more

Do Officers Need More than a Warrant to Search a Computer?

The Ninth Circuit recently decided United States v. Payton, a computer search case that quietly adopts some pretty radical ideas. Based on the lack of comments on my previous computer search posts — here and here –most of you aren’t keenly interested in the application of the Fourth Amendment to emerging technologies, but Payton strikes … Read more