Foreign Jurisdiction Law Clerk: Part 3

State v. Dezso, 512 N.W.2d 877 (This is an independent analysis of the case, not shepardized)

Routine-ish traffic stop with some subsequent shenanigans by the boys in blue up for debate here as we ruffle the feathers of the 4th amendment yet again. Hero in this case is traveling from Michigan to California for work, passing through the lovely land of ten thousand lakes when he is pulled over for speeding. So far so good, and this was January so I will assume that its par for the course in Minnesota to invite your pulled over guest into your squad car when its cold outside?

Officer did a license check and verified that Michigan license was good. Then he asked the defendant if he had anything in the car, asked if he could search. Ultimately he felt that something was fishy about the guy’s wallet, and took a look inside. He found a paper with blotter acid (LSD, dude) and arrested the guy. Defendant lost suppression hearing, and intermediate appellate court upheld the denial. Supreme court says not so fast, and cites one of my favorite ambiguous theories of law “whether a reasonable person would have felt free to decline the officer[‘s] requests or otherwise terminate the encounter.” Florida v. Bostick, 501 U.S. 429, 115 L. Ed. 2d 389, 111 S.Ct. 2382, 2387 (1991).

In Maryland, there is a case Ferris v. State, 355 Md. 356 in which this reasoning is rested with a totality of the circumstances test, encompassing a myriad of factors that could lend itself to the defendant feeling intimidated, or feeling free to decline the search, consent, etc. Minnesota seems to have a similar set of circumstances that they use as a test: “the nature of the encounter, the kind of person the defendant is, and what was said and how it was said. The encounter in this case took place at night, on a highway, and in the front seat of a parked squad car”

 

The court does not find that the circumstances lend themselves to the state meeting the burden of proof to sustain such findings, and reverse the prior decisions of the trial and appellate court.

Foreign Jurisdiction Law Clerk: Part 2

State v. Barajas, 817 N.W.2d 204 (This is an independent analysis of the case, not shepardized)

I’m starting to get a good feel for the drug culture in Minnesota after reading another 4th amendment case from their Supreme court. So here we have another meth case, good times. Don’t these kids know what this stuff does to your brain cells? Maybe the long term cognitive impairment was there before the meth…

Regardless, in this case our hero was a cell phone collector who was also squatting in an unoccupied apartment. Police received a report of his squatting from the landlord, and upon investigation found defendant and his cell phone collection. He didnt’s speak much english, and upon contacting a border patrol agent determined him to be unlawfully in the country, and detained him. Border patrol advised the offices that defendant may be involved in drug trafficking, which was apparently enough to create probable cause to search the apartment. With this apparent probable cause and consent of the landlord(which is probably all they really needed), the apartment was searched and “The police recovered five plastic bags containing a white crystal substance, a digital scale, powdered milk, salt, an empty sugar container, motor oil, razor blades, an “SD card” that can be physically moved from one cellular telephone to another for the purpose of transferring data, a fourth cellular telephone, and packaging materials, including tin foil, plastic bags, plastic wrap, and electrical tape.”

He was charged with possession with intent to distribute. He moved to suppress photographs taken from his cell phone(s) and such motion was granted due to the overly invasive nature of the search: “intentional invasion into the contents of an electronic device” by the police, which requires an “intentional search . . . or other deliberate key strikes,” must be supported by either a warrant or an exception to the warrant requirement. The district court also concluded that Officer Schroeder’s warrantless search of Barajas’s cellular telephone did not fall under the search-incident-to-arrest exception to the warrant requirement because no exigency existed, Barajas had already been removed from the premises at the time of the search, and the telephone was not contraband, an instrumentality of trespassing, or a weapon affecting officer safety.” This quote encompasses almost the entire first half of my con crim pro 1 class. Good work Minnesota courts!

However, apparently our hero had signed a consent form to have the phones searched. Although defendant did not speak much english, it was apparently OK with the court that he sign a consent form entirely in english. I’m certain the local officers in Moorhead explained the form and he signed it intelligently and knowingly of its purpose and extent of the consent. All of this aside, it was apparently good enough for the court to reconsider the suppression motion and allow the photos. (I recant my previous praise to the court).

With the evidence in, trial commenced, and defendant was found guilty by a jury of his “peers.” Appeal ensued.

It must be easy to brief cases as a Minnesota law student. If its not, and I’m just reading softball opinions, my apologies. The court breaks down the issues in the opinion:

ISSUES

I. Did the district court err by denying appellant’s motion to suppress evidence obtained by the police during a warrantless search of appellant’s cellular telephone?

II. Did the district court err by admitting in evidence photographs recovered from appellant’s cellular telephone that were irrelevant and unfairly prejudicial?

III. Did the district court err by admitting in evidence drug-courier-profile testimony?

 

How sweet is that? I mean, this case continues on as essentially a brief of itself. This case results in what is essentially a “moral victory” and one more important to the search guidelines for this type of evidence. “An individual has a reasonable expectation of privacy in the concealed contents of a cellular telephone. Because appellant’s cellular telephone concealed the photographs stored within the telephone’s internal memory, the investigating officer was required to obtain a warrant before searching that telephone.” Basically, he won, but he lost. The search was no good, but the district court error was not only harmless, there was enough other corroborating evidence to convict. However this does seem to solidify, if there were no such cases before it, that a warrant or real informed consent is required before snooping through someone’s cell phone photos.

Foreign Jurisdiction Law Clerk: Part 1

State v. Diede, 795 N.W.2d 836. (This is an independent analysis of the case, not shepardized)

This is a 2011 Minnesota Supreme Court case involving an apparent 4th amendment violation. Trial court and intermediate appellate court had denied defendant’s motion to suppress evidence found on defendant. Defendant was driver of the vehicle, which had stopped to drop off a passenger, a known drug “aficionado,” but was originally followed due to the license place not matching the vehicle in question. The passenger, who got out of the vehicle and allegedly appeared to throw something back into the vehicle, was arrested based on his prior dealings with drugs and police. Defendant got out of the car, and police told her to stay there, they had to ask her something. They then asked her to turn out her pockets, revealing a cigarette packet, which ultimately contained a baggie of meth. Minnesota law holds that “a police officer may temporarily detain a suspect without probable cause if (1) “the stop was justified at its inception” by reasonable articulable suspicion, and (2) “the actions of the police during the stop were reasonably related to and justified by the circumstances that gave rise to the stop in the first place.” State v. Askerooth,681 N.W.2d 353, 364 (Minn. 2004) (citing Terry, 392 U.S. at 19-21). Evidence obtained as a result of a seizure without reasonable suspicion must be suppressed.”

In the initial appeal to this case to the intermediate court, the parties stipulated to the facts, and the supreme court reviewed as such, holding “[t]he only basis in the record for suspecting that anyone possessed drugs was Detective Jensen’s assertion that he had probable cause to arrest Hanson for previous drug sales. But the record does not describe the foundation of that probable cause. Nor does it indicate any objectively articulable facts that would have allowed the police to reasonably infer that Hanson was carrying drugs at the time of his arrest on April 22. The record also does not indicate whether Hanson recognized Detective Jensen as a law enforcement officer, which would be necessary to support the officer’s suspicion that Hanson left something in the truck in response to the presence of the police. The record does not indicate that any of the officers saw Diede reach for anything while she was in the truck or that the officers looked into the truck to see if the object they saw Hanson leave there had been removed from the truck.”

 

The state leans on some key 4th amendment cases, but the court quickly distinguishes both: Maryland v. Pringle, 540 U.S. 366, 124 S. Ct. 795, 157 L. Ed. 2d 769 (2003), and Wyoming v. Houghton, 526 U.S. 295, 119 S. Ct. 1297, 143 L. Ed. 2d 408 (1999). “In both Houghton and Pringle, the police had already discovered drugs or drug paraphernalia inside the car.”

“Neither case supports the contention that the police may reasonably suspect a person of possessing a controlled substance merely because she is in the same truck as a suspected drug dealer who appears to leave something in the truck as he is getting out of it. Cf.United States v. Di Re, 332 U.S. 581, 586-87, 68 S. Ct. 222, 92 L. Ed. 210 (1948) (holding that probable cause to search a vehicle does not justify searching a passenger).”

 

The state also alternatively argues that the search of defendant was an extension of the investigation of the mismatched plates, and the court quickly drops this argument like a bad habit, largely in part to it being absolute BS(Id at no shit, sherlock).

And….for the part we really care about “Because Detective Jensen did not have a reasonable articulable suspicion that Diede was engaged in drug-related criminal activity, his request to search Diede’s cigarette package exceeded the scope of the initial temporary investigative seizure. Consequently, the district court erred when it denied Diede’s motion to suppress the methamphetamine evidence discovered in the cigarette package.”

Court also found that Diede did not consent to the search, despite the state arguing that she did, she said no clearly several times before eventually submitting to the search of the cigarette package, et al.

Court finally refuted the argument that the police would have inevitably found the contraband because they “could have” arrested her for the mismatched plates.

 

 

 

Maryland v. King: my initial reaction

Oh yes, DNA swabs for the purpose of identification from arrestees is acceptable under the 4th amendment.

Wait, what? I am baffled at what happened at the Supreme Court yesterday.

It is already lawful to take DNA swabs and compare to the database of other crimes AFTER one enters a guilty plea or is found guilty. That makes more sense to me, but to do so with someone presumed innocent is somewhat baffling. Furthermore, the majority masking this important for identification purposes is outright insane! There is no way in which the DNA test was used in King to identify him, that was already done by other evidence. They had King in custody, so why not get a warrant for his DNA? Oh yeah, because there is not probable cause for which said warrant would be granted! So my question is: if you cannot get a warrant, why is it ok to do the search without the warrant?

I am hardly a constitutional scholar. I am a second year law student, almost third. Rising 3L? Who cares, labels are for groceries…. However, I do know that there are some limits what is and isn’t acceptable in situations like this. Right now I’m looking at Winston v. Lee, 470 U.S. 753 that says “Such an intrusion would not be reasonable […] given the state’s failure ‘to demonstrate a compelling need for it.’ no such need was deemed present, as the state had considerable other evidence connecting defendant with the [crime]” in regard to the probable cause to remove a bullet that was lodged in the defendant, which was fired by a victim in a robbery, potentially corroborating his involvement in the crime. No doubt, the removal of the bullet instance can be distinguished, perhaps, because it is an entry into the body, and some will argue that swabbing the inside of the cheek for DNA is not, but I’m not sure I like that argument either. Regardless, the point is that the evidence to be gained by the search is necessary to prove the crime. Not to prove any crime.

I also see this as quite different than Schmerber v. California where the courts first developed the test utilized in Winston. This was the case where they had a DUI suspect and they wanted to draw blood to test for blood alcohol content. Decidedly different here, what is acceptable is based upon the evanescence of the evidence. In an hour, two hours, or even more the alcohol content would greatly dissipate. I’m not sure King, or any other defendant for that matter, has chameleon DNA that may change or be altered between his arrest to his sentencing.

Is there a public policy reason for DNA testing, cross referencing, and potentially solving other crimes: yes.

Should the above DNA testing be constitutional, legal, etc: sure.

How now, brown cow? Well I think its a simple process, like all law enforcement:

1) Do you job right (search, seizure, etc)

2) Get the right guy

3) Get a guilty plea or verdict

4) Get your DNA sample

5) Win, constitutionally

Well, now that Maryland v. King is here you can skip steps 1-3, but I digress.

 

From to classroom to the courtroom

This summer is a bit different of a summer for me, as far as classes are going. I am in the home stretch, this summer and 2 more semesters to go, then I should be finished with law school (whew!).

Last summer I took 2 classroom lecture style classes, this summer is a bit different. I am taking a classroom lecture style class, constitutional criminal procedure 1, and I am also taking a for-credit internship at the office of the public defender in Cecil County. I may have mentioned this previously, as for 2 days/week the 12 minute commute is incredibly relaxing compared to my normal hour+ commute to the city for work and/or school.

The semester is more than just a quick commute 2 days a week—I’m actually learning real life application of the law. Perhaps I am taking the perfect combination of “classes” by learning about constitutional criminal law issues and applying them in a corresponding internship. It could be, also, the the con crim pro 1 class is probably the “closest to the action” as any other course I’ve taken in the first 2 years of my law school career. Sure, most courses tackled issues that are real, but still somewhat at arm’s length. Here, I’m meeting clients who are dealing with situations in the internship that I’ve learned about, or will learn about in the class. Hearing comments and conversation from lawyers in the OPD office about things like “wing span” and then 2 weeks later learn about the relevance of what the “wing span” argument is for what police officers can and cannot search subsequent to a legal arrest.

Not only is this perhaps the perfect summer combination of courses, but it also serves as a good “priming of the pump” so to speak for my fall semester, when I will be involved in the rule 16 attorney practice clinic program, also at the public defender’s office.

Good times, and looking forward to rounding out the last year of law school, and of course taking the bar next July!