Archive | Fourth Amendment

Friday, April 16th, 2021

The Supreme Court holds that when the police shoot the driver of a car, that is a “seizure” even if the wounded motorist manages to drive away.

In Torres v. Madrid, decided on March 25, 2021, the Supreme Court determined that a seizure takes place for Fourth Amendment purposes when the police shoot someone who is escaping from the scene, even if her escape is successful.

The context for this decision was a § 1983 lawsuit by Roxanne Torres alleging that the police used excessive force when they seized her. The police approached her suv, and she started to drive away. The two officers fired 13 shots, wounding her twice, but she continued to drive. The district court and the 10th Circuit ruled that because the police had not touched Ms. Torres or succeeded in getting her to stop, there had not been a seizure. Therefore, she could not bring a claim that the police used excessive force during a seizure.

The Supreme Court reversed by a 5 to 3 vote. In an opinion by Chief …

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Wednesday, July 29th, 2020

Second Circuit: 31-Day Delay In Seeking Warrant To Search Seized Tablet Computer Violates Fourth Amendment, But Suppression Not Warranted Because Delay Resulted From Mere “Isolated Negligence.”

In United States v. Smith, the Circuit (Meyer, D. Conn., joined by Katzmann and Kearse), the Circuit held that police violated the Fourth Amendment by waiting 31 days before seeking a warrant to search a seized tablet computer, but declined to apply the exclusionary rule because the error was due to “isolated negligence,” and because existing precedent would not have told an objectively reasonable police officer that the delay was unreasonable.

Police encountered Smith, drunk to the point of unconsciousness, in his car on the side of the road in a rural area of upstate New York. After removing Smith from the car, and while searching the car for identification, an officer observed a tablet computer on the front passenger seat displaying what appeared to be child pornography. The officer arrested Smith for DUI and seized the tablet. Smith was released and refused consent to search the tablet. However, …

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Categories: child pornography, Exclusionary Rule, Fourth Amendment

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Friday, July 17th, 2020

Second Circuit grants suppression motion and holds that reasonable suspicion for stop was not established by defendant’s match to suspect’s race, even in combination with other factors, because a description based primarily on race is not particularized enough to guard against police overreach or harassment.

In United States v. Walker (No. 18-3729), __ F.3d __, 2020 WL 3966958 (2d Cir. July 14, 2020), the Second Circuit, in a decision by Judge Pooler (joined by Judges Calabresi and Carney), reversed the district court’s denial of Jaquan Walker’s suppression motion, holding that the police lacked reasonable suspicion to stop Walker based on his purported match to a photograph because the police lacked “little meaningful identifying information” besides the race of the suspect, and even the additional details of “medium-to-dark skin tone, glasses, facial hair, and long hair,” did not suffice to constitute specific, articulable facts upon which to base the stop. In addition, the court held that the search of Walker, which yielded drugs and incriminating statements, was insufficiently attenuated from the unconstitutional stop, despite the subsequent police discovery of an unrelated arrest warrant for Walker. Given that the justification for the stop fell “woefully short …

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Categories: Fourth Amendment, reasonable suspicion, terry stop

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Monday, October 28th, 2019

Second Circuit affirms grant of summary judgment dismissing claim of excessive force in handcuffing on grounds of qualified immunity, but notes that the right to raise such a claim is now “clearly established” law.

On October 25, 2019, the Second Circuit, in an opinion by Judge Sack (joined by Judge Hall and Judge Droney), concluded that an excessive force claim under the Fourth Amendment can be established based on excessive use of force in handcuffing, even where the plaintiff signaled discomfort during the handcuffing only through brief and non-verbal manifestations. However, the Court nonetheless affirmed the grant of summary judgment in favor of the defendants and dismissed the plaintiff’s action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 because it was not “clearly established law” at the time of the officer’s actions that a plaintiff who did not verbally complain or request to have her handcuffs adjusted or removed could recover on a handcuffing-based excessive force claim. Therefore, the officer was entitled to qualified immunity, and the Court affirmed the district court’s grant of summary judgment for the defendants.

In Cugini v. City of New York, __ …

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Categories: Fourth Amendment, Police Misconduct, Uncategorized

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Friday, September 6th, 2019

Second Circuit holds that Fourth Amendment not violated by Suffolk County program that permits nonprofit organization to conduct home visits with individuals on the sex offender registry in order to confirm the accuracy of their registration address.

On September 4, 2019, the Second Circuit, in an opinion by Judge Droney (joined by Judge Cabranes and Judge Raggi), affirmed a grant of summary judgment in favor of Suffolk County in a case where an individual who was required to register as a sex offender argued, in a claim for damages under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, that home visits conducted by an organization the county had contracted with to verify his address for the registry constituted unreasonable seizures. The Court, which assumed without deciding that there was state action and that the plaintiff was “seized” within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment, held that the visits were constitutional under the “special needs” doctrine.

In Jones v. County of Suffolk and Parents for Megan’s Law, No. 18-1602-cv (2d Cir. Sept. 4, 2019), the County of Suffolk had contracted with a private nonprofit organization, Parents for Megan’s Law (“PFML”), to visit …

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Categories: Fourth Amendment, Sex offender registration, special needs

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Second Circuit upholds prolonged traffic stop based on suspicion that car was stolen, despite database check confirming that it was not stolen.

In United States v. Wallace, No. 17-0472 (2d. Cir. Sept. 3, 2019), the Second Circuit, in an opinion by District Judge Abrams (joined by Judge Winter), upheld the district court’s denial of the defendant’s motion seeking suppression of a firearm recovered following a prolonged traffic stop. Judge Pooler dissented.

After being pulled over for a defective brake light at 7:20 pm, defendant Wallace produced a valid driver’s license but not his registration card. The officers noticed that the registration and inspection stickers on the car were damaged and faded and that there were marks on the car’s door suggesting that it had been pried open. Wallace explained that the stickers had been damaged by a defogging spray and that the door damage was from a prior occasion when he had locked himself out of the car. Although the Vehicle Identification Number (“VIN”) on the registration sticker was only partially …

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Categories: car stop, Fourth Amendment, reasonable suspicion, traffic stop

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Thursday, August 15th, 2019

Circuit Upholds, On Good Faith Grounds, A Search Warrant Issued By An Out-of-District Magistrate In Violation of Former Rule 41(b)and 28 U.S.C. §636(a).

United States v. Eldred, No. 17-3367-cr (August 9, 2019) involved a Network Investigative Technique warrant, essentially a government hacking tool that penetrates an anonymous “dark” web site to gain identifying data from computers communicating with the site. The warrant was issued by a magistrate judge in Virginia, but was used to obtain the IP address of a computer in Vermont, which agents subsequently seized. Eldred argued that the warrant was void because it violated the since-amended Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 41(b) (limiting the authority of a magistrate-judge to issue warrants to persons and property within her district) and 28 U.S.C. 636(a)(limiting the jurisdiction of magistrates to the district in which they sit).

Rule 41 (b) was amended in 2016 to specifically allow this type of warrant. However, the Court acknowledged that the old Rule applied here and that Section 636(a) arguably provided independent statutory ground for suppression in …

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Categories: Fourth Amendment, good faith, Warrants

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Wednesday, July 31st, 2019

Circuit Affirms Convictions for Producing and Distributing Child Pornography

United States v. DiTomasso, No. 17-1699 (2d Cir. July 30, 2019), involves a defendant who was convicted after a jury trial of producing and distributing child pornography. On appeal, he argued that the district court should have granted his motion to suppress certain electronic communications found through searches conducted by two Internet service providers (AOL and Omegle), and reported to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. He also argued that he should have been granted a hearing on whether his trial attorney was ineffective for not calling a witness (the defendant’s uncle) who supposedly would have confessed that he, not the defendant, was guilty of the charged crimes. The Circuit rejected all the defendant’s contentions and affirmed his convictions.

First, the Court held, the AOL searches did not afford a basis for relief. The district court found that the AOL searches constituted government searches for Fourth Amendment …

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Categories: Fourth Amendment, ineffective assistance of counsel

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Thursday, June 28th, 2018

Recap of Supreme Court Decisions in Carpenter and Currier

As we mourn Justice Kennedy’s retirement, Sentencing Resource Counsel Sissy Phleger has graciously allowed us to post her summaries of the Supreme Court’s recent decisions in Carpenter v. United States (opinion available here) and Currier v. Virginia (opinion available here):

First, in the eagerly-anticipated Carpenter v. United States, the Court held that the government’s acquisition of Mr. Carpenter’s cellphone location records was a Fourth Amendment search. Roberts wrote for the majority, joined by Kagan, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Ginsburg. All the dissenters filed separate opinions (and variously join in each other’s). While the majority opinion is at pains to confine its impact, this is a great win with potential implications far beyond its specific circumstances.

Mr. Carpenter had challenged the use of warantlessly-obtained historical cell-site location records used to convict him of a string of armed robberies. He argued that the records constituted a search, and thus required …

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Categories: cell phone location information, double jeopardy, Fourth Amendment

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Friday, June 1st, 2018

This Week’s Supreme Court Opinions

This week the Supreme Court issued two opinions, both of which seem relatively straightforward in their holdings.

In Collins v. Virginia, the Court held that the automobile exception to the Fourth Amendment does not permit a warrantless search of a vehicle parked within the curtilage of a home. In Collins, police officers tracked a stolen vehicle to the address of the defendant’s girlfriend. There, parked in the driveway, an officer saw what appeared to be a motorcycle frame covered with a white tarp. The officer entered the driveway, uncovered the tarp, and confirmed that it was the stolen motorcycle.

Justice Sotomayor’s opinion, for an eight-member majority, is clear in its language and broad in its scope. The opinion swiftly concludes that the part of the driveway on which the motorcycle was parked was curtilage.  That portion of the driveway was enclosed on three sides, but open …

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Categories: automobile exception, curtilage, Fourth Amendment, MVRA

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Friday, May 18th, 2018

Supreme Court Roundup (including post-Dimaya GVRs)

This week the Supreme Court issued a number of significant criminal opinions, as well as a number of GVRs signalling that the holding of Sessions v. Dimaya likely extends to § 924’s residual clause (18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(3)(B)).

In McCoy v. Louisiana, 16-8255, the Court held that it was structural Sixth Amendment error for an attorney to concede a defendant’s guilt, against his wishes, in the hope of sparing him the death penalty. McCoy’s attorney argued that his client lacked the mental capacity to form the specific intent necessary for first-degree murder, see slip op. at 3 n.1, but conceded in his opening statement that the jury could not reach “any other conclusion than Robert McCoy was the cause of” the victims’ deaths. Id. at 4. This strategy, the Court held, violated the client’s Sixth Amendment rights regardless whether it was “counsel’s experienced-based view . . . that confessing …

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Categories: 924(c), Fourth Amendment, ineffective assistance of counsel, right to counsel, traffic stop, wiretaps

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