Thursday, September 12, 1996

US Supreme Court Chimel v. California 770

Decided June 23, 1969

   Officers went to Chimel's home with a warrant to arrest him for burglary.  Chimel's wife allowed them into the house, where they waited for him to arrive.  When he did, they arrested him and asked if they could look around.  He objected, but they searched the entire house anyway, incident to his arrest.  No search warrant was obtained.  Evidence from the search was introduced at trial, and Chimel was convicted.

   The Supreme Court overturned some of its own various precedents regarding search incident to arrest in this case holding that:

When an arrest is made, it is reasonable for the arresting officer to search the person arrested in order to remove any weapons that the latter might seek to use in order to resist arrest or effect his escape. Otherwise, the officer's safety might well be endangered, and the arrest itself frustrated. In addition, it is entirely reasonable for the arresting officer to search for and seize any evidence on the arrestee's person in order to prevent its concealment or destruction. And the area into which an arrestee might reach in order to grab a weapon or evidentiary items must, of course, be governed by a like rule. A gun on a table or in a drawer in front of one who is arrested can be as dangerous to the arresting officer as one concealed in the clothing of the person arrested. There is ample justification, therefore, for a search of the arrestee's person and the area "within his immediate control"—construing that phrase to mean the area from within which he might gain possession of a weapon or destructible evidence.

There is no comparable justification, however, for routinely searching any room other than that in which an arrest occurs—or, for that matter, for searching through all the desk drawers or other closed or concealed areas in that room itself. Such searches, in the absence of well-recognized exceptions, may be made only under the authority of a search warrant. The "adherence to judicial processes" mandated by the Fourth Amendment requires no less.

   The evidence was suppressed, and Chimel's conviction overturned.

Thursday, August 15, 1996

US Supreme Court Terry v. Ohio


   Every cop knows Terry v. Ohio... Officer McFadden stopped Terry & Co. after watching him case a store, apparently preparing for a robbery.  Fearing that they were armed, he searched them for weapons.  They were armed, and charged with CCW.

   The defendants filed a motion to suppress the guns as the fruit of an illegal search.  The Court held that the Fourth Amendment prohibits unreasonable search and seizure, and it is reasonable for an officer to detain a suspect based on reasonable suspicion of criminal activity and search that suspect's outer clothing for weapons when there is reason to believe the suspect might be armed and dangerous.

   Interestingly, there was a dissenting opinion.  Justice Douglas would have held that the stop and search were unreasonable because they were not based on probable cause.  Can you imagine how much more difficult law enforcement would be if the court's decision had gone that way?

Tuesday, August 6, 1996

US Supreme Court Gardner v Broderick 392

Decided June 10, 1968

   The facts of this case occurred before Garrity, but the case was decided after Garrity.

   Gardner was a police officer in New York, who was being investigated by a grand jury for bribery, corruption, and illegal gambling.  He was advised of his right against self incrimination, but asked to sign a waiver of that right.  He refused.

   At the time, New York had a policy in their charter which said that any city employee would be fired if they pled the fifth to work-related questions in court.  Gardner was fired for his refusal to waive his rights, and he sued the city for reinstatement and back pay.  He lost, but he appealed.

   The US Supreme Court held that if Gardner could have legally been fired if he had refused to answer questions about the discharge of his duties without being asked to waive his rights.  But that's not what happened; Gardner wasn't fired for not telling his boss what he did, Gardner was fired for not waiving his rights in a pending criminal prosecution.  The lower courts' decision was reversed.

   And so now, whenever we go to IA, we are informed that we will be fired if we refuse to answer questions, but that our answers can not be used against us in a criminal case- they're just used to determine what our future employment status will be.

Friday, July 12, 1996

US Supreme Court Katz v. US

Decision here.

   This is the case which gave us the term "reasonable expectation of privacy."

   Katz was convicted of violation of gambling laws based on recordings of phone calls that he made from a public phone booth.  FBI agents had recorded these conversations using a device that attached to the outside of the booth (no intrusion into the booth = no search = Fourth Amendment not implicated, no warrant required.  According to the reasoning of the day, anyway).

   This decision spelled out that the Fourth Amendment protects people, not just places against unreasonable search and seizure.  In a concurring opinion, this decision describes that for invoking the Fourth Amendment "there is a twofold requirement, first that a person have exhibited an actual (subjective) expectation of privacy and, second, that the expectation be one that society is prepared to recognize as 'reasonable.'"

Thursday, July 11, 1996

US Supreme Court Warden v. Hayden 480

Decided May 29, 1967

   I looked this case up because it kept coming up in my research on hot pursuit.

   Hayden committed an armed robbery at a taxi company, and two taxi drivers followed him home.  They relayed his address to their dispatcher, who relayed it to the police, who showed up at Hayden's home within five minutes of him getting there.  They knocked, Hayden's wife answered the door, and she offered no objection when the police made entry to search for a robber.  They found Hayden pretending to be asleep in an upstairs bedroom.  They also found a gun in a nearby toilet tank, and in a washing machine they found the clothes the robber was wearing.

   The Supreme Court upheld the warrantless search, because "the exigencies of the situation made that course imperative... The Fourth Amendment does not require police officers to delay in the course of an investigation if to do so would gravely endanger their lives or the lives of others. Speed here was essential, and only a thorough search of the house for persons and weapons could have insured that Hayden was the only man present and that the police had control of all weapons which could be used against them or to effect an escape."

   So there's that.  The interesting thing is that this was only a minor part of the decision.  Most of the decision has to do with establishing the government's right to seize evidence that only has evidentiary value, rather than also being contraband or the instrumentality of a crime.  Apparently, we couldn't always do that.

Monday, July 1, 1996

US Supreme Court Garrity v. New Jersey 13

Decided January 16, 1967
   Court case number 13.  :)  Apparently, the case numbering scheme has gotten a lot more complex since the 60's.

   Garrity was a cop, and he was one of several who were being investigated by the New Jersey Attorney General for fixing tickets.  Each of the cops involved was interrogated, and prior to their interrogation each of them were advised of the following: (1) that anything he said might be used against him in any state criminal proceeding; (2) that he had the privilege to refuse to answer if the disclosure would tend to incriminate him; but (3) that if he refused to answer he would be subject to removal from office.

   In order to keep their jobs, they waived their rights.  They made incriminating statements, which were later admitted in court over their objections, and they were convicted.  They appealed their convictions.

   The US Supreme Court held that making it a condition of employment for a public servant that they waive a constitutional right is coercive, and that therefore the waiver of the right is not free and voluntary.  Statements obtained this way may not be used in a criminal proceeding, and the decision of the lower courts was reversed.

Wednesday, June 12, 1996

US Supreme Court Miranda v. Arizona 759

Decided June 13, 1966

   Holy hell, this is a long one!  Part of that is because this decision is actually made up of four separate cases revolving around the same issue, but mostly I think the court was just being long winded.  Or maybe the court was providing a service to insomniacs everywhere.  Either way, clear your calendar if you're going to read this decision.

   Fortunately, it begins with a summary:

Our holding will be spelled out with some specificity in the pages which follow but briefly stated it is this: the prosecution may not use statements, whether exculpatory or inculpatory, stemming from custodial interrogation of the defendant unless it demonstrates the use of procedural safeguards effective to secure the privilege against self-incrimination. By custodial interrogation, we mean questioning initiated by law enforcement officers after a person has been taken into custody or otherwise deprived of his freedom of action in any significant way. As for the procedural safeguards to be employed, unless other fully effective means are devised to inform accused persons of their right of silence and to assure a continuous opportunity to exercise it, the following measures are required. Prior to any questioning, the person must be warned that he has a right to remain silent, that any statement he does make may be used as evidence against him, and that he has a right to the presence of an attorney, either retained or appointed. The defendant may waive effectuation of these rights, provided the waiver is made voluntarily, knowingly and intelligently. If, however, he indicates in any manner and at any stage of the process that he wishes to consult with an attorney before speaking there can be no questioning. Likewise, if the individual is alone and indicates in any manner that he does not wish to be interrogated, the police may not question him. The mere fact that he may have answered some questions or volunteered some statements on his own does not deprive him of the right to refrain from answering any further inquiries until he has consulted with an attorney and thereafter consents to be questioned.

   If you want to save yourself a lot of time, just go off of that.  If you'd rather read the whole thing yourself, make a pot of coffee.

Thursday, April 11, 1996

US Supreme Court Preston v. US 163

Decided March 23, 1964

   Preston (and some other guys) were arrested for vagrancy when they were contacted by police at 3 am for loitering in a car in a business district since 10 pm.  They were searched and transported to the station, and the car (which hadn't been searched) was driven to the station and then towed.  Later, the car was searched which uncovered evidence that was later used to convict Preston & Co. of conspiracy to rob a bank.  The government sought to justify the search of the car as being incident to arrest, but the Supreme Court overturned the conviction because the search was not contemporaneous (either in time or place) with the arrest.

Thursday, January 4, 1996

US Supreme Court Mapp v. Ohio 236

Decided June 19, 1961.

   Included here for historical interest.

   Ms. Mapp was convicted of possession of pornography (gasp!) after the police made a warrantless search of her home based on a tip that there was a bad person inside (they had a piece of paper that they pretended was a warrant, and she was handcuffed because she wouldn't give it back to them).  At the time, the state courts were not bound by the federal constitution, so the exclusionary rule did not apply (although most states had their own version of the exclusionary rule, apparently Ohio wasn't so forward-thinking).

   The court held that the 4th Amendment (and therefore the exclusionary rule) was enforceable in state courts by way of the authority of the 14th Amendment.  It's very strange the way that the Court explained this decision... as far as I can tell, earlier decisions had already held that the 4th Amendment prohibited unreasonable search and seizure by state agents just as much as they did by federal agents, but had declined to tell state courts what to do about it (so evidence illegally obtained by state agents would not be admissible in federal court, but state courts were free to make their own rules about the admissibility of such evidence).  This decision doesn't really emphasize the reasoning of using the 14th Amendment to apply other constitutional guarantees to the states (it alludes to Wolf v. Colorado and Elkins v. US for that).  Instead, this decision takes a few pages to say "we've let the state courts do it their way and it hasn't worked, so now they'll have to do it our way for reasons we've already explained."

   Anyway, the evidence (four pamphlets, two photographs, and "a little pencil doodle") was suppressed.