Archives for: September 2007, 13

09/13/07

Permalink 09:10:28 am, by fourth, 272 words, 812 views   English (US)
Categories: General

Consent to look in a closet for ID did not prohibit looking in a plastic bag

Consent to search a closet for identification was not limited to looking in pockets. Officers looked in a plastic bag and found contraband. United States v. Romero, 247 Fed. Appx. 955 (10th Cir. 2007) (unpublished):

In this case, a reasonable person would have understood the exchange between Sgt. Espinoza and Mr. Romero to mean that Mr. Romero was granting permission to search anywhere in the closet for identification. The plastic shopping bag discovered by Sgt. Espinoza in the closet reasonably could have contained a receipt or other identifying information. Mr. Romero disputes that one could reasonably believe that identifying information could be found where Sgt. Espinoza discovered the bag -- that is, among folded (possibly clean) clothes. But we do not share Mr. Romero's doubt.

"At the time that the computer checks on Flores were completed, Livingston was aware that (1) Flores initially told an implausible story of his itinerary, and subsequently changed his story; (2) Flores had lied about his arrest record; (3) Flores had lied about his time of entry into the United States; and (4) Flores had recently crossed the border from Mexico, a common origin of illicit drugs. These circumstances are sufficient to create reasonable suspicion of drug trafficking." United States v. Rodriguez-Flores, 249 Fed. Appx. 317 (5th Cir. 2007)*(unpublished).

Plain view of 1700 pounds of marijuana in the back of a pickup truck near the Mexican border was all that was needed for a seizure. United States v. Anaya-Sanchez, 242 Fed. Appx. 215 (5th Cir. 2007)* (unpublished).

Plain view through a window of a store room supported Customs seizure of counterfeit goods. Its incriminating nature was immediately apparent to the Customs officer. United States v. Alim, 256 Fed. Appx. 236 (11th Cir. 2007)* (unpublished).

Permalink 08:41:06 am, by fourth, 548 words, 693 views   English (US)
Categories: General

Defendant consented to entry, and officer could not stop him from going to his room because he was free to leave

Defendant was convicted of resisting a law enforcement officer, and it was based on his refusal to respond to the officers' requirement that he stop in his own home. Defendant's roommate brought police on a "standby" to defendant's home to get his stuff. Defendant let them in and walked back to his room, and officers tried to stop him because of a hunch [no reason to believe] he had a gun back there. Their grabbing him was constitutionally unjustified in this case. Briggs v. State, 873 N.E.2d 129 (Ind. App. 2007):

The State does not dispute Briggs's contention that when the officers entered his apartment, he "was not under arrest, [in] custody, or under suspicion for a crime." Appellant's Br. at 14. As such, their encounter was consensual, and Briggs remained free to disregard the officers, walk away, or even order them to leave his home. At trial, Officer Evans testified that he asked Briggs to stop walking toward the back bedroom because, "you know, it's America. People have the right to keep and bear arms and I [didn't] know what's in that dark apartment." Id. at 26. Officer Evans got it half right: not only do Americans enjoy a constitutional right to keep and bear arms, but they also enjoy a constitutional right to be secure in their persons and private dwellings against unreasonable intrusions by government agents. Here, the officers detained Briggs based solely on a hunch that he could have a weapon in his bedroom. This amounted to an unreasonable seizure in violation of the Fourth Amendment. See State v. Atkins, 834 N.E.2d 1028, 1033 (Ind. Ct. App. 2005) ("Officer safety is always a legitimate concern, but standing alone officer safety cannot form the basis for a valid investigatory stop."), trans. denied. Therefore, we conclude that the officers were not lawfully engaged in the execution of their duties and reverse Briggs's resisting law enforcement conviction for insufficient evidence.

A credible report that defendant had pointed a gun from his car made the car a virtual crime scene, and that justified a protective search of the car. (Alternatively, it was justified as a search incident.) State v. Glenn, 140 Wn. App. 627, 166 P.3d 1235 (2007):

¶12 Importantly, in each case, a “determination of the reasonableness of an officer's intrusion depends in some degree on the seriousness of the apprehended criminal conduct. An officer may do far more if the suspected misconduct endangers life or personal safety than if it does not.” State v. Rice, 59 Wn. App. 23, 27, 795 P.2d 739 (1990) (citing State v. McCord, 19 Wn. App. 250, 253, 576 P.2d 892 (1978)). Additionally, “[t]here is no constitutional violation in allowing a police officer to assume a citizen's report has some basis when he is conducting an initial investigation of that complaint.” State v. Rice, 59 Wn. App. at 28.

¶13 A stop based on a report of a weapon sighting is markedly different from investigative stops based on reports of drug-related activities or traffic infractions. The latter were held lawful based on the suspects' furtive movements and the presence of a passenger or the need to return to the vehicle to facilitate the investigation. But here, because the police received a legitimate citizen's report that a driver had pointed a gun from his vehicle, no furtive movements were necessary to justify the belief that Glenn's suspected misconduct endangered the safety of the officers. ...

Permalink 08:16:34 am, by fourth, 776 words, 1334 views   English (US)
Categories: General

When is the passenger free to leave if the driver is detained?

In an interesting twist to Brendlin on the stop of the driver being a stop of the passenger, Arizona speaks to when the passenger is free to leave, if separate from the driver. Here, the officer ordered defendant out of the car for reasons completely unrelated to the purpose of the initial stop and patted him down without regard to any claim of safety. Therefore, the patdown was suppressed. State v. Johnson, 217 Ariz. 58, 170 P.3d 667, 512 Ariz. Adv. Rep. 3 (2007), cert. gr 2008 U.S. LEXIS 5208 (June 23, 2008):

P18 We have found no case law governing when the seizure of passengers in a vehicle, incident only to a driver's traffic violation, terminates. See Maryland v. Wilson, 519 U.S. 408, 415 n.3, 117 S. Ct. 882, 886 n.3 (1997) (declining to reach this issue). However, common sense suggests that at some point during the encounter the passengers in the vehicle must be free to leave--their fate is not entirely tied to that of the driver. Obviously, if a driver is arrested and taken to the police station, innocent passengers will not also be taken into custody or required to accompany the driver. If the passengers are told they are free to leave and do so, it is clear they are no longer seized; it is equally clear that, if they are being questioned about the reason for the stop, they remain seized. It is less clear when passengers' seizures terminate under factual situations that lie within the extremes of these examples, but we must be guided by reasonableness. See Ohio v. Robinette, 519 U.S. 33, 39, 117 S. Ct. 417, 421 (1996) ("The 'touchstone of the Fourth Amendment is reasonableness.' Reasonableness, in turn, is measured in objective terms by examining the totality of the circumstances."), quoting Florida v. Jimeno, 500 U.S. 248, 250, 111 S. Ct. 1801, 1803 (1991).

. . .

P20 When we examine whether Trevizo's encounter with Johnson evolved into a consensual encounter, we note that Trevizo's interaction with Johnson and her questions to him were wholly unrelated to the purpose of the traffic stop. Trevizo testified that she and her team "were not investigating gang activity as part of the traffic stop," stating she spoke with Johnson solely because she "wanted to gather intelligence about the gang he might be in," "a choice [she] made to further [the] mission of [her] task force."

P21 Had Trevizo wanted to order Johnson out of the car after it had been stopped, she could have done so. See Wilson, 519 U.S. at 415, 117 S. Ct. at 886 ("[A]n officer making a traffic stop may order passengers to get out of the car pending completion of the stop."). However, Trevizo did not do so. As we already noted, Trevizo conceded that, as far as she was concerned, Johnson "certainly" "could have refused" her request to get out of the car.

. . .

P23 And, most importantly, neither Trevizo nor the other officers ordered all the occupants to get out of the vehicle during the traffic stop for officer safety reasons. Indeed, the front seat passenger remained in the car throughout the encounter. This fact lends further support to the conclusion that Trevizo's questioning of Johnson was wholly unrelated to the stop and constituted a separate, and consensual, encounter.

. . .

P27 We find that Trevizo's initial lawful seizure of Johnson incident to the traffic stop of the driver evolved into a separate, consensual encounter stemming from an unrelated investigation by Trevizo of Johnson's possible gang affiliation and that, under the circumstances of this case, a reasonable person in Johnson's position would have felt free to remain in the vehicle. The state has admitted the officers had no reason to believe Johnson was involved in criminal activity when Trevizo searched him. Trevizo's request that Johnson step out of the car to discuss gang activity, and not for officer safety purposes, was part of a consensual encounter. Accordingly, she had no right to pat him down for weapons, even if she had reason to suspect he was armed and dangerous. See Ilono H., 210 Ariz. 473, P11, 113 P.3d at 699. Accordingly, the trial court erred in denying Johnson's motion to suppress the evidence found. See Moody, 208 Ariz. 424, P62, 94 P.3d at 1140.

Brendlin was cited and briefly discussed, and it was decided after submission of the case. The court concluded that Brendlin did nothing to answer the question there.

Defendant has already been held to lack standing to contest the search of the motel room he was in. His second motion to reconsider does no better because claiming it was an invalid probation search misses the mark. United States v. Molsbarger, 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 66448 (D. N.D. September 6, 2007).*

Defendant's continued detention was based on [really thin] reasonable suspicion. Consent thereafter was valid. Lane v. State, 287 Ga. App. 503, 651 S.E.2d 798 (2007).*

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by John Wesley Hall
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Little Rock, Arkansas
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"If it was easy, everybody would be doing it. It isn't, and they don't."
—Me

"Love work; hate mastery over others; and avoid intimacy with the government."
—Shemaya, in the Thalmud

"A system of law that not only makes certain conduct criminal, but also lays down rules for the conduct of the authorities, often becomes complex in its application to individual cases, and will from time to time produce imperfect results, especially if one's attention is confined to the particular case at bar. Some criminals do go free because of the necessity of keeping government and its servants in their place. That is one of the costs of having and enforcing a Bill of Rights. This country is built on the assumption that the cost is worth paying, and that in the long run we are all both freer and safer if the Constitution is strictly enforced."
Williams v. Nix, 700 F. 2d 1164, 1173 (8th Cir. 1983) (Richard Sheppard Arnold, J.), rev'd Nix v. Williams, 467 US. 431 (1984).

"The criminal goes free, if he must, but it is the law that sets him free. Nothing can destroy a government more quickly than its failure to observe its own laws, or worse, its disregard of the charter of its own existence."
Mapp v. Ohio, 367 U.S. 643, 659 (1961).

Any costs the exclusionary rule are costs imposed directly by the Fourth Amendment.
—Yale Kamisar, 86 Mich.L.Rev. 1, 36 n. 151 (1987).

"There have been powerful hydraulic pressures throughout our history that bear heavily on the Court to water down constitutional guarantees and give the police the upper hand. That hydraulic pressure has probably never been greater than it is today."
Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 39 (1968) (Douglas, J., dissenting).

"The great end, for which men entered into society, was to secure their property."
Entick v. Carrington, 19 How.St.Tr. 1029, 1066, 95 Eng. Rep. 807 (C.P. 1765)

"It is a fair summary of history to say that the safeguards of liberty have frequently been forged in controversies involving not very nice people. And so, while we are concerned here with a shabby defrauder, we must deal with his case in the context of what are really the great themes expressed by the Fourth Amendment."
United States v. Rabinowitz, 339 U.S. 56, 69 (1950) (Frankfurter, J., dissenting)

"The course of true law pertaining to searches and seizures, as enunciated here, has not–to put it mildly–run smooth."
Chapman v. United States, 365 U.S. 610, 618 (1961) (Frankfurter, J., concurring).

"A search is a search, even if it happens to disclose nothing but the bottom of a turntable."
Arizona v. Hicks, 480 U.S. 321, 325 (1987)

"For the Fourth Amendment protects people, not places. What a person knowingly exposes to the public, even in his own home or office, is not a subject of Fourth Amendment protection. ... But what he seeks to preserve as private, even in an area accessible to the public, may be constitutionally protected."
Katz v. United States, 389 U.S. 347, 351 (1967)

“Experience should teach us to be most on guard to protect liberty when the Government’s purposes are beneficent. Men born to freedom are naturally alert to repel invasion of their liberty by evil-minded rulers. The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well-meaning but without understanding.”
United States v. Olmstead, 277 U.S. 438, 479 (1925) (Brandeis, J., dissenting)

“Liberty—the freedom from unwarranted intrusion by government—is as easily lost through insistent nibbles by government officials who seek to do their jobs too well as by those whose purpose it is to oppress; the piranha can be as deadly as the shark.”
United States v. $124,570, 873 F.2d 1240, 1246 (9th Cir. 1989)

"You can't always get what you want / But if you try sometimes / You just might find / You get what you need."
—Mick Jagger & Keith Richards

"In Germany, they first came for the communists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Catholic. Then they came for me–and by that time there was nobody left to speak up."
Martin Niemöller (1945) [he served seven years in a concentration camp]

“You know, most men would get discouraged by now. Fortunately for you, I am not most men!”
Pepé Le Pew

"There is never enough time, unless you are serving it."
Malcolm Forbes

"The point of the Fourth Amendment, which often is not grasped by zealous officers, is not that it denies law enforcement the support of the usual inferences which reasonable men draw from evidence. Its protection consists in requiring that those inferences be drawn by a neutral and detached magistrate instead of being judged by the officer engaged in the often competitive enterprise of ferreting out crime."
Johnson v. United States, 333 U.S. 10, 13-14 (1948)


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