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Posts Tagged ‘warrant’

Does the Fourth Amendment Allow for a Forced Blood Draw after a DUI? – Part II

Posted on: April 22nd, 2013

By: Sun Choy

In a previous post, I posed this question in light of the oral argument in Missouri v. McNeely. This week, the Supreme Court answered by holding that requiring a warrant under the Fourth Amendment “must be determined case by case based on the totality of the circumstances” confronting the officer. In doing so, the Court rejected the government’s bright-line test in favor of the familiar “totality of the circumstances” test. The Court was aware of the different levels of technology available to officers across the county and noted that “technological developments that enable police officers to secure warrants more quickly, and do so without undermining the neutral magistrate judge’s essential role as a check on police discretion, are relevant to an assessment of exigency.”

What I take away from this decision is that officers must be able to articulate a “plausible justification” for failing to obtain a warrant before drawing blood. If the evidence shows that the particular warrant process of the jurisdiction would not have “significantly increase[d] the delay before the blood test,” the Fourth Amendment would be violated.

Supreme Court Snuffs Warrantless Sniffs at the Stoop

Posted on: April 9th, 2013

By: Brian Dempsey

In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court recently decided that a narcotics detection canine’s sniff at the front door of a suspected marijuana grow house is a search requiring probable cause and a warrant. (Florida v. Jardines, Docket No. 11-564 (March 26, 2013)). For the majority, this case turned on the fact that the sniff occurred on private property. After all, just a few weeks prior, the Court had unanimously held that an exterior sniff of a vehicle on a public roadway is not a search which is subject to such restrictions under the Fourth Amendment.  (Florida v. Harris, Docket No. 11-817 (Feb. 19, 2013)).

Justice Antonin Scalia, writing for the majority, applied traditional principles of trespass law to conclude that the sniff amounted to a search under the Fourth Amendment. Scalia began by noting that the front porch where the officers deployed the canine was within the home’s “curtilage,” which encompasses the immediate surroundings of the home. As such, the front porch was to be treated as part of the home for purposes of the Fourth Amendment analysis. With that, Scalia reasoned, this was an “easy” case. When the government uses a physical intrusion to explore the details of the home (including its curtilage), a “search” has taken place.

Supreme Court to Decide Whether Police Dog Sniffs Pass the Fourth Amendment “Smell Test”

Posted on: November 2nd, 2012

By: Brian Dempsey

This past week, the United States Supreme Court heard two cases which are expected to clarify the Fourth Amendment limitations on police officers’ use of drug-sniffing dogs.

In the first case, Florida v. Jardines, the Supreme Court granted certiorari to decide whether a dog sniff at the front door of a suspected marijuana grow house by a trained narcotics detection dog is a search requiring probable cause and a warrant.  In the second case, Florida v. Harris, the issue is whether an “alert” by a well-trained detection dog establishes probable cause for the search of the interior of a vehicle for further evidence of illegal drugs.

In some general law enforcement contexts, a canine drug sniff has been held not to be a search which requires Fourth Amendment scrutiny.  In Jardines, however, the Court will – for the first time – consider whether the Fourth Amendment “reasonableness” standard applies when the search is conducted outside a private home.  This is an important factor in light of the Court’s recognition in prior cases that the area immediately outside a home is subject to the same Fourth Amendment privacy protections which apply to the interior of the residence.  In contrast, the Court has recognized a lesser degree of privacy expectations in a vehicle which is operated on public roads, as was the case in Harris.

The Court’s upcoming opinions in these cases will provide welcome guidance regarding the constitutional limitations of searches conducted by narcotics detection dogs.  In the meantime, a plain-language discussion of the issues can be found here.

For more commentary, analysis, and links to the oral argument transcripts and briefs in both cases, see these websites:

SCOTUS Blog – Florida v. Jardines

SCOTUS Blog – Florida v. Harris

ABA Journal – “Chemerinsky: The Fourth Amendment Goes to the Dogs”

The Volokh Conspiracy – “A Few Thoughts the Dog Sniff Cases: Florida v. Jardines and Florida v. Harris”