2003 – 2004 Term
Cases of Interest to Law Enforcement
Beverly A. Ginn
Tucson Police Department
270 S. Stone
Officers executing a warrant to search for cocaine in respondent Banks’ apartment knocked and announced their authority. The question is whether their 15-to-20-second wait before a forcible entry satisfied the Fourth Amendment and 18 U.S.C. §3109. We hold that it did.
The time period an officer must wait after knocking and announcing the service of a search warrant, but prior to forcing entry, depends on the totality of the circumstances in the particular case. The Supreme Court noted that the question of whether 15-20 seconds was a sufficient time to wait was a close call. While the Court approved this entry, it reminded officers that the amount of time that must pass prior to forcing entry depends on all the facts known to police, and certainly includes consideration of why an immediate entry is necessary (the Court stated that, for example, the wait may be longer if looking for a stolen piano than if looking for rock cocaine, due to the ease with which the latter evidence may be destroyed by the occupants of the home).
At , an officer stopped a vehicle for speeding. There were three occupants in the car: the driver, a front seat passenger and a back seat passenger. The officer asked the driver for his license and registration and observed a large amount of rolled-up money in the glove compartment when the driver opened it to retrieve his registration. The officer issued a verbal warning for the speeding.
The officer then asked the driver if he had any weapons or narcotics in the vehicle. When the driver indicated he did not, the officer asked for and received consent to search the vehicle. The search yielded both cocaine and money. The cocaine was located behind the back seat armrest, which the officer had lowered during the search.
All three men denied ownership of the drugs or money, and all three were arrested. Once at the station, Pringle, the front seat passenger, admitted the drugs and money were his. Prior to trial, Pringle sought to suppress his confession, arguing that it was the fruit of an arrest made without probable cause.
The Court reviewed the probable cause standard:
On many occasions, we have reiterated that the probable cause standard is a practical, non-technical conception that deals with the factual and practical considerations of everyday life on which reasonable and prudent men, not legal technicians, act.
* * *
[T]he substance of all the definitions of probable cause is a reasonable ground for belief of guilt and that the belief of guilt must be particularized with respect to the person to be searched or seized. Id, at 124 S.Ct. 795, 800 (citations omitted).
On the same day, at about the same time, one week after a fatal hit and run, police set up a roadblock at the intersection where the incident occurred. Police believed that passing motorists, many of whom came from nearby factories at the end of a shift, may have seen something. Police stopped each car for no more than 10-15 seconds, handed out a flyer asking for assistance and asked the drivers/passengers if they had seen anything the previous week.
Driving up to the checkpoint in his minivan, Mr. Lidster swerved, nearly striking one of the officers. After an investigation, Lidster was arrested for DUI. Upon appeal, the Illinois Supreme Court found that the roadblock violated Lidster’s rights under the Fourth Amendment and reversed his conviction.
Upon review, the Supreme Court disagreed. The Court held that this roadblock was not one established for general law enforcement purposes, to determine whether a vehicle’s occupants were committing a crime, but to ask for help in solving a crime. The fact that this type of roadblock – characterized by the Court as a “brief, information–seeking highway stop” – involved a stop which lacked individualized suspicion, did not necessarily mean that the roadblock was unconstitutional.
Noting that “the Fourth Amendment does not treat a motorist’s car as his castle,” the Court pointed to other situations in which it has approved roadblocks without individualized suspicion – sobriety checkpoints and Border Patrol checkpoints. The Court has held that such stops are less likely to provoke anxiety or to be intrusive, are brief, and do not involve questions that are designed to elicit self-incriminating information. This type of stop should be compared, according to the Court, to the voluntary contact an officer might initiate with a pedestrian, seeking information with which to solve a crime.
Groh v. Ramirez, 540
An ATF agent submitted an application for a search warrant that described in detail the types of weapons the agent sought to find at a particular ranch. Accompanying the application was a detailed affidavit that set forth the basis for believing that the weapons could be found at the specified location. He also presented a warrant form that he had completed. The magistrate signed the warrant.
The search warrant form itself failed to identify any of the contraband or evidence that the agent sought to seize. Instead, in the blank which should have contained a list of the property to be seized, the agent typed a description of the house that was being searched. The warrant did not incorporate the affidavit by reference.
The warrant was executed; no items were found at the ranch. A copy of the warrant, not including the affidavit (which had been sealed), was left with the resident. At the request of the resident’s attorney, a copy of the page of the application that listed the items to be seized was faxed to the attorney the next day. No charges were ever filed.
The residents sued the agent and other officers under Bivens and 42 U.S.C. §1983, asserting a variety of claims, including a Fourth Amendment violation. On appeal from a dismissal of all claims by the District Court, the Ninth Circuit reinstated the Fourth Amendment violation. The court found that the warrant was invalid on its face for failing to describe with particularity the place to be searched and the items to be seized, and that the lead agent on the case, Groh, was not entitled to qualified immunity for the failure to review the warrant prior to its execution.
The Supreme Court agreed. The Court held that the warrant was plainly invalid, as it failed to meet the Fourth Amendment’s requirement that the items to be seized be “particularly describe[d].” The Court also agreed that Agent Groh was not entitled to qualified immunity. According to the Court, no reasonable officer would believe that the warrant was valid, given its violation of the text of the Fourth Amendment, nor would a reasonable officer ever presume that a warrantless search of a home was constitutional.
The defendant attempted to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in a Ford Taurus. A Customs agent who inspected the vehicle noted that the gas tank sounded solid when tapped. A mechanic dismantled the tank, revealing 37 kilograms of marijuana bricks. The entire search process took about an hour. The defendant was indicted for unlawfully importing marijuana and for possession with intent to distribute. The District Court suppressed the evidence, holding that reasonable suspicion was required to search the gas tank. The Ninth Circuit affirmed.
The Supreme Court reversed, holding that no reasonable
suspicion is required prior to the search of a vehicle at the border. “It is axiomatic that the
An officer observed the defendant driving a vehicle displaying license plates that were not associated with the vehicle. Before the officer could make a stop, the defendant pulled over, parked the vehicle and got out. The driver, after some conversation with the officer, and a consensual frisk, reached into his pocket and pulled out bags of marijuana and crack cocaine. The officer then searched the defendant’s vehicle and located a handgun under the driver’s seat.
Convicted for possession with intent to distribute, being a felon in possession of a firearm and possession of a firearm in furtherance of drug trafficking, the defendant appealed, seeking to suppress the firearm as the fruit of an illegal search. The defendant argued that a search of a vehicle incident to arrest was permitted only when the officer first contacted the person while he/she was in the vehicle.
The Supreme Court disagreed. The rationale for search incident to arrest – the need to disarm the suspect in order to take him into custody and the need to preserve evidence for later use at trial – applies whether the person who has been arrested was first contacted while in the car or while “outside of, but still in control of, the vehicle.” Id, at 2131.
In any event, while an arrestee’s status as a “recent occupant” may turn on his temporal or spatial relationship to the car at the time of the arrest and search, it certainly does not turn on whether he was inside or outside the car at the moment that the officer first initiated contact with him.
Hiibel V. District Court, ___
An officer responded
to a report of an assault inside a truck traveling down the road. Police located the truck, which by then had pulled
off the road. A man (Larry D. Hiibel) was standing by the vehicle and a young woman was
inside. The officer approached and,
pursuant to a
The Supreme Court upheld the conviction. The Court held that, during the course of a Terry stop (in other words, when the officer has reasonable suspicion that criminal activity is ongoing), an officer may request that a person provide his/her name. If there is a state law requiring the person to provide his/her name, and failure to do so is a crime, the person may be arrested for failing to do so.
The opinion does not permit stops without reasonable suspicion, does not require that a person provide written proof of identification, and does not permit random stops for identification. In those states where there is no state law requiring a person to provide his/her name, this decision does not provide a basis for making an arrest for failure or refusal to provide such information.
v. Alvarado, ___
The juvenile defendant and another person attempted to steal a truck, which led to the murder of the truck’s owner. A month after the shooting, Alvarado’s parents were advised that the police wished to speak to him, and brought him to the station. They waited in the lobby while the detective spent about two hours interviewing him. During the interview, which was recorded, Alvarado confessed to the crime. At no time did the detective read Alvarado his Miranda rights. Following the interview, Alvarado was released to his parents, who took him home.
Alvarado was later charged with the murder and convicted. Both at trial and on appeal, he sought to suppress his confession, arguing that his age (he was 17 at the time of the offense and the interrogation) and his inexperience with the criminal justice system had to be considered when determining whether he was in custody for purposes of Miranda. On appeal, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals considered his age and lack of experience, ruling that he was in custody and his rights should have been given to him. Since they were not, the court suppressed the confession.
The Supreme Court reversed. It is clearly established that Miranda warnings are required only during custodial interrogation. Custody for purposes of Miranda requires objective consideration of all of the circumstances surrounding an interrogation and a determination of whether, under those circumstances, a reasonable person would have felt free to terminate the interrogation and leave. This is an objective inquiry, not a subjective one. It is not a question of whether the person being interrogated, considering his age and inexperience, thought he could leave, but rather whether a reasonable person in such circumstances would believe he could leave.
According to the Court, a person’s age and prior experience with the criminal justice system is a subjective consideration. While such information may be relevant when considering whether a subject’s confession is voluntary (a subjective determination), it is not relevant when determining whether a person is in custody for purposes of Miranda (an objective determination).
A woman suspected of involvement in a fire that killed a teenage boy was arrested and taken to the station, where she was questioned by a detective without Miranda warnings. The detective questioned her until she confessed her involvement in the crime. After a short break, the detective then read her Miranda warnings and took a second statement from her, in which she repeated her unwarned confession.
The Court found both the warned and unwarned statements to be inadmissible. The practice of first deliberately taking an unwarned statement in order to obtain admissions of guilt prior to providing Miranda warnings likewise renders the second statement inadmissible. To allow otherwise would provide an “end‑run” around the protections of Miranda. The Court held that statements made during a warned custodial interrogation are not admissible when that interrogation has been immediately preceded by a custodial interrogation done deliberately without Miranda warnings.
Arrested for violating a domestic restraining order, the defendant interrupted the officer as he tried to read him his Miranda rights, asserting that he already knew his rights. The officers asked about a firearm they believed he possessed. He was reluctant to answer (“I am not sure I should tell you anything about the Glock because I don’t want you to take it away from me”), but ultimately told the officers it was in his bedroom and granted them permission to go and get it. The defendant was tried and convicted of being a felon in possession of a firearm.
The District Court suppressed the firearm, concluding that there was no probable cause for the arrest. The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed that ruling, but suppressed the firearm as the fruit of an illegal confession, given that the defendant never received full Miranda warnings.
The Supreme Court reversed. In a 5-4 decision, with four separate opinions announced, the Court held that the physical fruits of a voluntary, but unwarned confession, are not subject to suppression.
The [Self-Incrimination] Clause cannot be violated by the introduction of nontestimonial evidence obtained as a result of voluntary statements.
Crawford v. Washington, ___
The defendant stabbed a man who allegedly tried to rape his wife. Both the defendant and his wife were interrogated by police. The defendant claimed self defense; his wife’s statement did not support that claim.
At trial and on appeal from his conviction, the defendant argued that the Sixth Amendment’s right to confront and cross-examine the witnesses against him had been violated by the introduction of his wife’s statements. He argued that the rule of evidence (an exception to the hearsay rule) permitting the introduction of a reliable statement from an unavailable witness was itself a violation of the Sixth Amendment.
The Supreme Court agreed. A testimonial statement of an absent witness is admissible only where the witness is unavailable and where the defendant has had a prior opportunity to cross-examine the witness.
Dispensing with confrontation because testimony is obviously reliable is akin to dispensing with jury trial because a defendant in obviously guilty. This is not what the Sixth Amendment prescribes.
The Court did not specifically define its reference to “testimonial” evidence, other than to say that the term applies “at a minimum to prior testimony at a preliminary hearing, before a grand jury, or at a former trial; and to police interrogations.”
Blakely v. Washington, ___
Blakely pleaded guilty to kidnapping
his estranged wife. The facts he
admitted would have resulted, under
The defendant appealed this sentence enhancement, arguing that the judge’s decision violated his Sixth Amendment right to have a jury determine beyond a reasonable doubt the facts upon which his sentence was based. The Supreme Court agreed. According to the Court, a judge may not impose a sentence greater than that permitted by the factual findings made by the jury. To do otherwise violates the Sixth Amendment right to trial by jury.
John Fellers was indicted by a grand jury for conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine. Officers went to his home, advised him that they had a federal warrant for his arrest and questioned him concerning his involvement in meth distribution. Fellers made incriminating statements to the officers, who then transported him to jail. There, he was advised of his rights under Miranda, reiterated the statements he had made earlier, and made additional statements. At trial, he moved to suppress all of the statements he had made, both at home and at the jail.
The U.S. Supreme Court reiterated the rule that persons who are under indictment, but who are not yet represented by counsel, must be warned of their rights and agree to waive those rights before they can be questioned. Once a person has been formally charged (indicted or arraigned), officers are prohibited from “deliberately eliciting incriminating information” from that person without first warning them of their right to counsel and obtaining a waiver of the right to counsel. Failure to do so will result in the suppression of the statements, as a violation of the Sixth Amendment right to an attorney.
The Court left open the question of whether the subsequent statements, made at the jail, were admissible. The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals had mistakenly analyzed that issue under the Fifth Amendment, rather than the Sixth Amendment, so the issue was remanded to the lower court for consideration under the Sixth Amendment.
The Sixth Amendment does not require the court to specifically advise a defendant that by waiving counsel she may be overlooking a viable defense, or that by waiving counsel she is losing the chance to get an independent opinion on whether she should plead guilty. Rather, as the Supreme Court held, the Sixth Amendment right to counsel does not require a trial judge to advise an unrepresented defendant of anything other than:
The nature of the charges against him, of his right to be counseled regarding his plea, and of the range of allowable punishments attendant upon the entry of a guilty plea.
The Supreme Court noted that state courts are free to adopt, by statute, rule or decision, any form of plea acceptance that they wish. This case simply holds that the two admonitions insisted upon by the Iowa Supreme Court are not required by the U.S. Constitution.
The trial court failed to notify the defendant, as required by Fed. Rule Crim. Proc. 11, that he had no right to withdraw from the plea agreement if the court did not follow the recommendations contained in the plea. The court did not follow the recommendations and the defendant was sentenced to a much longer prison term than he, his attorney, or the prosecutor believed likely. The defendant sought to withdraw from the plea, based on the Rule 11 violation.
The district court refused to allow the withdrawal; the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that “a defendant who seeks reversal of his conviction after a guilty plea, on the ground that the district court committed plain error under Rule 11, must show a reasonable probability that, but for the error, he would not have entered the plea.” The defendant must be able to convince the reviewing court that the “probability of a different result is sufficient to undermine confidence in the outcome of the proceeding.”
The defendant’s facial attack on the federal bribery statute, seeking to have it declared an unconstitutional exercise of Congress’s authority under Article I, fails. Congress has the authority to spend for the general welfare and to assure that the dollars spent are not “frittered away in graft or upon projects undermined by graft.”
Nelson v. Campbell, ___
The defendant, sentenced to die by lethal injection (having made no timely request for death by electrocution), had previously used intravenous drugs to the extent that his veins were unreachable by ordinary access. In response to his inquiry concerning how the injection would be carried out, the defendant was advised that, one hour prior to the execution, prison staff would make a 2-inch incision in his arm or leg, that local anesthesia would be used, and that a physician might or might not be present. The defendant immediately filed an action under 42 U.S.C. §1983, seeking a temporary stay of execution, and a permanent injunction against the proposed procedure, known as a “cut-down,” and the adoption of a protocol that comported with appropriate medical standards.
The lower courts dismissed the complaint, ruling that the filing of the §1983 claim was in effect the filing of a second or subsequent habeas application without the authorization required under federal law. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that a challenge to a discretionary medical procedure unnecessary to carry out the execution (other less invasive procedures were available), was not necessarily a complaint sounding in habeas, as it did not address the fact of the defendant’s conviction or the duration of his sentence. Instead, this was a constitutional claim much more like those that challenge the conditions of the defendant’s confinement, and, depending on the actual findings by the District Court on remand, could potentially be brought pursuant to §1983.
Muhammad v. Close, 540
An inmate brought suit under 42 U.S.C. §1983, seeking to recover damages from a prison guard who allegedly had retaliated against him for filing prior lawsuits and grievances against him. The lower courts ruled that the inmate could not file suit under §1983, but was instead required to proceed through a habeas petition.
The Supreme Court reversed, clarifying the entitlement of incarcerated persons to bring suit under §1983. When a prisoner seeks to file a suit challenging the fact of his conviction or the duration of his sentence, he must first exhaust state court remedies and must then proceed under federal habeas law. When the prisoner is seeking redress for some other grievance, however, one which does not challenge the fact of his conviction or the duration of his sentence, §1983 litigation is permitted.
v. R.R. Donnelley & Sons Co., ___
The four-year statute of limitations
established by Congress for any Acts enacted after
A sexual harassment plaintiff who resigns may claim that she was constructively discharged only if she is able to demonstrate that the abusive working environment became so intolerable that her resignation qualified as a fitting response. The test is whether working conditions are such that a reasonable person would feel compelled to resign.
Unless the employer causes the plaintiff to quit by engaging in a significant adverse action that officially changes the plaintiff’s situation (humiliating demotions, extreme cuts in pay, unbearable working conditions), an employer may defend against a constructive discharge claim by demonstrating both that it had an accessible and effective policy and procedures for reporting and resolving such complaints, and that the plaintiff unreasonably failed to use those procedures (the Ellerth/Faragher affirmative defense).
Dynamics Land Systems, Inc. v. Cline, 540
Workers aged 40-49
could not sue their employer over the employer’s decision to abolish health
benefits for them, but keep benefits for workers who were over 50. The Court determined that the
v. Davey, 540
The State of
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals struck down this limitation, finding it to be an unconstitutional limitation on the Free Exercise Clause. The Supreme Court reversed, finding nothing improper in the state’s constitution or in its limitation on the use of state funds to train ministers.
Dodging the underlying issue of whether the words “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance violate the Establishment and Free Exercise clauses of the First Amendment, the Supreme Court held that the father, as the non-custodial parent, lacked standing to bring the case on behalf of his child.
Ashcroft v. American Civil Liberties Union, ___
The Supreme Court agreed with the ACLU that enforcement of the Child Online Protection Act should be enjoined, as it likely violates the First Amendment. The Court found it likely that the statute will be found unconstitutional because it does not use the “least restrictive means available” to prevent minors from accessing harmful material on the Internet.
Rasul v. Bush, ___
petition for a writ of habeas corpus even if they are being held outside the
Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, ___
For those who practice in the habeas arena, the following cases are worth review:
Pliler v. Ford, ___U.S. ___, 124 S.Ct. 2441, 159 L.Ed.2d 338 (2004);
v. Dretke, 540
Baldwin v. Reese, ___U.S. ___, 124 S.Ct. 1347, 158 L.Ed.2d 64 (2004);
Dretke v. Haley, ___U.S. ___, 124 S.Ct. 1847(2004);
Tennard v. Dretke, ___U.S. ___, 124 S.Ct. 2562, 159 L.Ed.2d 384 (2004);
Schriro v. Summerlin, ___U.S. ___, 124 S.Ct. 2519, 159 L.Ed.2d 442 (2004) (Ring is not retroactive).
Additional cases of interest:
City of Littleton v. Z.J. Gifts, ___U.S. ___, 124 S.Ct. 2219, 159 L.Ed.2d 84 (2004) (no special judicial review procedure is necessary for City adult business licensing ordinance)
Tennessee v. Lane, ___ U.S. ___, 124 S.Ct. 1978, 158 L.Ed.2d 820 (2004) (Title II – programs, services, and activities – of the ADA survives scrutiny under the 11th Amendment, at least to the extent that it applies to cases implicating the “fundamental right of access to courts”)
Tennessee Student Assistance Corp. v.
Frew v. Hawkins, 540
National Archives and Records Administration v. Favish, ___U.S. ___, 124 S.Ct. 1570, 158 L.Ed.2d 319 (2004) (the Freedom of Information Act’s exception for death-scene images requires that a requester demonstrate that release will advance a significant public interest; when the interest is government negligence or inappropriate conduct, proof of sufficient evidence to convince a reasonable person is required).
1. Whether the Sixth Amendment is violated by the imposition of an enhanced sentence under the United States Sentencing Guidelines based on the sentencing judge’s determination of a fact (other than a prior conviction) that was not found by the jury or admitted by the defendant.
2. If the answer to the first question is “yes,” the following question is presented: whether, in a case in which the Guidelines would require the court to find a sentence-enhancing fact, the Sentencing Guidelines as a whole would be inapplicable, as a matter of severability analysis, such that the sentencing court must exercise its discretion to sentence the defendant within the maximum and minimum set by statute for the offense of conviction.
Muehler v. Mena, 332 F.3d 1255 (9th Cir. 2003)
Scheduled for argument
1. In light of the Court's repeated holdings that mere police questioning does not constitute a seizure, whether the Ninth Circuit erred in ruling that law enforcement officers who have lawfully detained an individual pursuant to a valid search warrant are engaging in an additional, unconstitutional “seizure” if they ask that person questions about criminal activity without probable cause to believe that the person is or has engaged in such activity.
2. In light of the Court's ruling in Michigan v. Summers, 452 U.S. 692 (1981), that a valid search warrant carries with it the implicit authority to detain occupants while the search is conducted, whether the Ninth Circuit erred in ruling that a two- to three-hour detention of the occupant of a suspected gang safe-house (while officers searched for concealed weapons and other evidence of a gang-related drive-by shooting) was unconstitutional because the occupant was initially detained at gun-point and handcuffed for the duration of the search.
Scheduled for argument
Whether the Fourth Amendment requires reasonable, articulable suspicion to justify using a drug-detection dog to sniff a vehicle during a legitimate traffic stop.
1. Whether an arrest violates the Fourth Amendment if a police officer has probable cause to make an arrest for one offense, but that offense is not closely related to the offense articulated by the officer at the time of the arrest.
1. For the purpose of qualified immunity,
whether the law is clearly established when there is a split in the circuits regarding
the application of the “closely related offense doctrine” (the Ninth Circuit
had no controlling authority applying the doctrine, and
Smith v. City of
Scheduled for argument
Whether or not disparate impact claims are cognizable under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act.
Ashcroft v. Raich, 352 F.3d 1222 (9th Cir. 2003)
Scheduled for argument
Whether the Controlled Substances Act, 21 U.S.C. 801 et seq., exceeds Congress’ power under the Commerce Clause as applied to the intrastate cultivation and possession of marijuana for purported personal “medicinal” use or to the distribution of marijuana without charge for such use.
Roper v. Simmons, 112 S.W.2d
1. Once the Supreme Court holds that a particular punishment is not “cruel and unusual” and thus barred by the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments, whether or not a lower court may reach a contrary decision based on its own analysis of evolving standards.
2. Whether the imposition of the death penalty on a person who commits a murder at age seventeen is “cruel and unusual,” and thus barred by the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments.