At a recent Webinar about the Criminal Justice program we briefly discussed a couple of recent U.S. Supreme Court cases of interest to both Criminal Justice majors and law enforcement officers. Maybe you have some comments or opinions about the cases and a prediction as to how the Supreme Court will rule.
U.S. Supreme Court Update
Two cases of interest to criminal justice students and the law enforcement community were recently argued to the U.S. Court. A third is set for argument in January, 2013. A summary of the facts and arguments are set forth below.
U.S. v. Jardines (argued Oct. 31, 2012)
A detective with the Miami-Dade Police Department received an unverified crime stoppers tip that he home of J. Jardines was being used to grow marijuana. Approximately one month later he and a partner and the partner’s drug detecting dog approached the residence at 7AM. They watched the home for 15 minutes; they saw no vehicles in the driveway, the blinds were closed and there appeared to be no activity within the house. They walked up to the front porch (with the dog) and the dog almost immediately gave a positive alert for drugs. The detective then smelled marijuana himself. He also noticed that the air conditioning unit had been constantly running for about 15 minutes without shutting off. This gave him reason to believe that a lot of heat was being generated from within the house. Based on these facts the detectives obtained a search warrant. They entered the residence and seized marijuana. They then arrested Jardines. The evidence was suppressed at the trial court level and that suppression as upheld by the Florida Supreme Court . The case was appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The State argued that the Supreme Court had ruled in the past that the use of a drug sniffing dog is not a search and the positive alert merely indicates the presence of drugs. Questions from the Justices concerned going on the property: “………….That the police then are to go into a neighborhood that’s known to be a drug dealing neighborhood go into—go down the street, have the dog sniff in front of every door, or go into an apartment building?” The State answered by saying that it is permissible for “people, visitors, salesmen, Girl Scouts, Trick or Treaters, to come up to your house and knock on the door.” One of the Justices countered by saying that the same would not be true for a drug sniffing dog and his handler. The defense here argued simply that what the detectives did (through the use of the dog) was conduct a warrantless search as the homeowner had a reasonable expectation of privacy. The Chief Justice asked what if the officers were going up to the door to deliver “policeman’s ball tickets” and sniffed at the door and detected marijuana. Is that OK? The defendant’s attorney answered that is not a search and is different. The arguments continued for over 70+ pages and it appears from the questioning that this case will be a “close call” and could be decided either way. The decision will probably be issued in the spring.
Bailey v. U.S. (argued Nov. 1, 2012)
Detectives in New York obtained a search warrant for an apartment. The apartment was said to be occupied by an individual known as “Polo”, a heavy set black male. Officers surveilled the apartment before entering and watched two males exit and enter a black Lexus parked in the driveway. Both individuals matched Polo’s description. After the vehicle had driven about one mile from the apartment (and about 5 minutes had elapsed) the officers stopped the vehicle. They ordered both occupants out and patted them down. They were placed in handcuffs but told they were not under arrest. They were then transported back to the apartment where a search was under way. A gun and drugs were found and both were then arrested. Both argued that their detentions were in violation of the Fourth Amendment. The U.S. District Court ruled that the authority to detain a person incident to a search was “not strictly confined to the physical premises of the apartment so long as the detention occurred as soon as practicable after the defendant departed the apartment.” The Court also held the detention was lawful under Terry v. Ohio The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit agreed and the defendant appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The line of questioning to both sides of this argument focused on what is the “immediate vicinity” and how far should such a stop occur. An earlier Supreme Court case (Michigan v. Summers) had allowed for this although the persons in that case were at the premises and had not departed. Arguments in this case also exceeded 70+ pages. It will be interesting to seen which way the Court rules. This will also probably be decided in Spring, 2013.
Missouri v. McNeely ( to be argued January, 2013)
A Missouri highway patrolman stopped the defendant for speeding at about 2AM. In his opinion the driver was under the influence. He performed field sobriety tests which the defendant failed; he then placed him under arrest and then asked him for consent to perform a breath test and the defendant refused. The officer then transported him to a nearby hospital to have his blood tested. Against his will, the defendant’s blood was drawn (about 30 minutes after the initial stop). His blood alcohol level was well above the legal limit. He moved to suppress the evidence as a violation of his Fourth Amendment rights. The trial court refused to suppress the evidence but the Supreme Court of Missouri disagreed and suppressed it. The State appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Issue to be decided:
The issue before the Court is whether a law enforcement officer may obtain a non-consensual and warrantless blood sample from a drunk driver under the exigent circumstances exception to the Fourth Amendment warrant requirement based upon the natural dissipation of alcohol in the bloodstream. Arguments are set for January 9, 2013.
Please stay tuned to this site for more updates and the rulings by the Court.