I have a “friend” whose teenage son was caught using his cell phone in class. The teacher saw him using it and took the phone. She looked at the phone when she picked it up and saw displayed on its screen a snapchat from another student in the class. So she took the other student’s phone too. My friend wanted to know what the teacher’s options were after that. Could she search the contents of the cell phones she had seized?
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.
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?
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.
Last week a three-judge panel of the North Carolina Court of Appeals in State v. Allman (5 Jan. 2016), ruled (2-1) that a search warrant to search a residence for drugs was not supported by probable cause because the affidavit failed to link the residence to drug activity that had occurred elsewhere. This post discusses some of the interesting issues in this case, including possible state supreme court review.
Don’t call the School of Government next week. We’ll all be out. Next week is conference-time for many of the court officials we serve, and we will be traversing the state (driving the speed limit at all times, of course) to speak at various legal conferences. Case updates are a perennial staple of these conference agendas, so I’ve been reviewing last year’s cases with a particular focus on impaired driving. A number of opinions address issues that are frequently litigated in DWI cases, so I thought I’d share the highlights with you in a two-part post. This post reviews the past year’s jurisprudence on implied consent testing and compelled blood draws. Tomorrow’s post will review the recent case law on reasonable suspicion and probable cause for DWI.
The court of appeals decided its first post-Missouri v. McNeely alcohol exigency case yesterday. The court in State v. Dahlquist determined that the four to five hours that the arresting officer estimated would have elapsed had he first traveled to the intake center at the jail to obtain a search warrant and then taken the … Read more
In Michigan v. Summers, 452 U.S. 692 (1981), the U.S. Supreme Court upheld an officer’s authority under the Fourth Amendment to detain—without reasonable suspicion or probable cause—people at a residence where a search warrant is being executed. The defendant in Summers was detained on a walkway leading down from the front steps of a house … Read more