Thirsty for Criminal Law Trivia this Thursday?

Earlier this week, I was asked to provide a criminal law case update to a group of attorneys. I started the session by giving them a quiz, which I thought could go one of two ways. Possibly, they’d know all the answers and tune me out for the next hour. On the other hand, maybe they’d have some uncertainty, and some interest, and would tune in to see what the court said. Fortunately, on Tuesday, the latter sentiment prevailed.

Given that our readers are voracious consumers of criminal law, I thought you might enjoy taking the quiz and seeing what you know – or don’t – about recent decisions from the appellate courts. Interest piqued? Try your hand at answering the questions below.

  1. An officer receives an anonymous tip that a suspicious white male with a gold or silver vehicle is in a parking lot at nighttime walking around a closed business. Businesses in that area have been broken into in the past. An officer sees a black male in a silver car in the parking lot. Does she have reasonable suspicion to stop the vehicle to investigate?
    1. Yes
    2. No

 

  1. An officer runs the tags on a vehicle that drives past him on the roadway. He discovers that the vehicle is registered to a male with a suspended license. He stops the vehicle. When he approaches the driver’s side door, he immediately sees that a woman is driving the car. May he ask the woman for her driver’s license?
    1. Yes
    2. No

 

  1. An officer sees two men (A and B) walking on a sidewalk in a high-crime area around 2 a.m. It is snowing and no one else is out walking. The officer stops her car, approaches the men and asks their names. A states his true name. B initially gives a false name. The officer asks where they are going, and their answers are vague. A asks the officer if she will give them a ride home. The officer says she will. As the three approach her car, the officer tells A and B that police procedure requires that she search them before they get in. B runs away. Do these facts provide the officer with reasonable suspicion to seize A?
    1. Yes
    2. No

 

  1. Police receive an anonymous call to 911. The caller states that a black male wearing a red shirt and black pants just placed a handgun in the waistband of his pants while at a specified gas station. An officer goes to the gas station and sees a man in the parking lot who matches the description. Do these facts provide the officer with reasonable suspicion to stop the man?
    1. Yes
    2. No

 

  1. Three detectives conduct a knock and talk at this house. They stop their patrol car in the driveway beside the house.

 

May two of them stand by the garage door while the other detective knocks on the front door?

A. Yes

B. No

 

  1. Officers find marijuana stems and rolling papers in the defendant’s trash along with mail addressed to the residence. Does this information provide probable cause to support a search warrant to search the home for evidence of marijuana possession?
    1. Yes
    2. No

 

  1. Defendant hires a person to kill his wife and gives him details on how to carry out the crime, including his wife’s morning schedule. The defendant is arrested shortly after the meeting. Has the defendant committed attempted murder?
    1. Yes
    2. No

 

  1. A confidential informant purchases drugs from the defendant at his home on one occasion. Are these facts sufficient to support a conviction for maintaining a dwelling for the keeping or selling of drugs?
    1. Yes
    2. No

 

  1. A gives B money to purchase drugs. B doesn’t get the drugs and doesn’t return the money. A goes to B’s house to confront her and get his money back, barging into the house and threatening B with a gun. A leaves without any money. Has A committed attempted armed robbery?
    1. Yes
    2. No

 

  1. Is the Eighth Amendment’s excessive fines clause an incorporated protection applicable to the States under the Fourteenth Amendment’s due process clause?
    1. Yes
    2. No

 

Want to know the answers?  Click here. If you got them all right, use the comment feature to brag.

4 comments on “Thirsty for Criminal Law Trivia this Thursday?

  1. I got 8 out of 10, but I always try to reread the statutes and caselaw because I know I can’t remember it all. Question # 3 deals with St v Augustin and leaves out a critical fact that makes it easier for us to get the answer right. (though I got it wrong, anyway). Augustin is the case in which two guys asked a policeman for a ride then the defendant’s companion flees rather than be searched so the police officer arrests the defendant. The issue that jumps out at me wasn’t addressed by the Court. The published case indicates that the companion didn’t run away until after the officer began searching the companion and that the officer began physically searching the companion with no mention by the Court that the companion gave consent and no mention of any legal justification for the search. The officer began searching because it was police procedure to search anyone who rides in the officer’s car. Police procedure doesn’t eliminate the requirement for the officer to have either consent from the companion for the search or a proper legal basis for conducting the search. The office had neither (or at least neither is mentioned in the Court’s opinion). The officer should have requested consent after telling the guys that they couldn’t ride in his car unless he searched them. The officer’s physical search of the companion was apparently an unlawful seizure. It is proper and lawful to flee from an unlawful seizure. Fleeing from an unlawful seizure is not reasonable, articulable suspicion of criminal activity.

    I am probably missing something obvious here, something I once knew then forgot (like the 2 answers I missed in the quiz). Would someone please enlighten me on this issue? Maybe the trial Court found that the companion affirmatively gave consent for the search but the Court of Appeals left that part out? I hope the Court did not make the outrageous finding that asking for a ride automatically meant consenting to a search.

  2. #1 State v Horton is a tough one. I think it is interesting that the court pointed out that the officer originally attempted a voluntary encounter before conducting the traffic stop. Subjective thoughts of the officer should be irrelevant. The court made a point to emphasize that the officer was responding to a report of “undescribed suspicious activity.” Being near a closed business at night in an area known for break-ins is fairly suspicious I would say and hardly undescribed. The State pointed out State v Fox 1982 COA decision which is very similar to this case and RS was upheld. The only difference really is that the State in Horton did not go into much detail on the previous break-in activity. I think this case was lost primarily due to a very generalized findings of fact by the trial court that left out some fairly important details that the COA could not consider. Sometimes the “cold written record” comes back to bite and this defendant short of discretionary review by the SC is going walk despite being a habitual felon possessing drugs and a stolen firearm.

  3. Brett – Based solely on Shea’s facts (not going back to the actual Horton case) the issue is whether an officer may lawfully seize someone who is in a car in a parking lot of a business that is closed and that is in an area where break-ins have previously occurred. Based on that hypothetical I don’t think it is close. The officer may not seize the person in the car. You’d have to change the facts significantly to justify the stop, such as making the tip not anonymous (or making the tip detailed with verifiable accuracy such as correct race of suspect, color of car, and maybe one more detail such as clothing or license plate) AND having the tipster say the guy from the car tried to open a window of the closed business – then you’d have a lawful stop.

  4. I missed #6. It may be worth noting that North Carolina case law differs at least slightly from what the Fourth Circuit said in Lyles. In State v. Sinapi, 359 N.C. 564 (2005), the N.C. Supreme Court held a search warrant was supported by probable cause where the defendant had previously been arrested twice for drug-related offenses and several marijuana plants were discovered in a garbage bag outside his home. In State v. Teague, 817 S.E.2d 239 (2018), the N.C. Court of Appeals held that even if an anonymous tip was so stale as to be unreliable, “the marijuana-related items obtained from [a] refuse search, . . . Defendant’s criminal history, and the database searches specifically linking Defendant to the Residence to be searched, provided a substantial basis upon which the Magistrate could determine probable cause existed to issue the search warrant of Defendant’s Residence, under the totality of the circumstances.”