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Criminal Procedure - Outline Part 10

By Collin B. Hardee

Download the PDF version of this outline

<< Part 9 | Part 11 >>

Search Incident to Lawful CITATION?
  • Knowles v. Iowa (1998) → When a police issues a mere traffic citation, it does NOT permit the police to then conduct a search of the car b/c a routine traffic stop is a relatively brief encounter and does not pose danger to the officer
    • B/c of nature of citation, once the individual is stopped and issued a citation, all the evidence necessary to prosecute that offence has been obtained and no further need to discover and preserve evidence exists
  • Atwater v. City of Lago Vista (2001) → Custodial Arrests: when the police take a person into custody for a petty/minor offense (e.g., a minor traffic violation that carries only a small fine)
    • Rule → an individual MAY be arrested for minor/petty crimes b/c the officer has no definitive way of knowing whether the circumstances indicate a “major” or “minor” crime
      • “The trouble with the distinction [between “jailable” and “fine-only” offences] is that the officer might not be able to tell. It is not merely that we cannot expect every police officer to know the details of frequently complex penalty scheme, but that penalties for ostensibly identical conduct can vary on account of facts difficult (if not impossible) to know at the scene of the arrest.”
Pretextual Stops and Arrests (Particularly in Automobiles)

Suppose the police have a vague suspicion that a particular motorist is engaged in some illegal activity (e.g., drug smuggling), but this suspicions does not rise even to the level of permitting a warrantless “stop”, let alone a warrantless search or arrest. However, suppose that the police, after further observing the motorist, notice him violate some minor traffic regulation not related to the suspected illegality. May the police seize upon this violation as a pretext for stopping the motorist?

Whren v. U.S. (1996) → When the police’s “real” reason for stopping a vehicle is something other than the traffic violation is irrelevant – once the police have probable cause to believe that even a minor traffic (or other) violation has occurred, they may stop the vehicle. Then, if the stop in turn gives them probable cause to believe that contraband is inside, they may perform a warrantless search

  • I.e., if the police have probable cause to believe that a traffic (or other) law has been broken, they may stop the perpetrator, even if their motive in doing so is to seek evidence of some other crime for which they do not have probable cause or even reasonable suspicion, i.e., there’s no “pretext” exception to the general rule that police may make a warrantless stop of a vehicle when they have probable cause to believe than an offense has been committed

Cars and Containers

Search at Station After Arrest where the police arrest a driver, take him and his car to the station, and search the car at the station

  • Chambers v. Maroney (1970) a warrantless search which results in the finding of incriminating evidence is valid, despite the fact that, since the car was in police possession, a warrant could have been procured without endangering the preservation of evidence
    • Rationale: (1) the destruction-or-removal-of-evidence exception at least permitted the arresting officers to seize the car and deny its use to anyone; and (2) that being the case, “there is little to choose in terms of practical consequences between an immediate search [at the station] without a warrant and the car’s immobilization until a warrant is obtained.”
    • Houses v Cars → as a general principle, a lesser showing of exigent circumstances will allow a warrantless search of a vehicle than of a house b/c “a man’s home is his castle.”
  • Carroll v. US (1974) → automobiles and other conveyances may be searched without a warrant in circumstances that would not justify the search without a warrant of a house or an office, provided that there is probable cause to believe that the car contains articles that the officers are entitled to seize
    • Driver has three (3) interests at stake (when conducting the respective search without a warrant):
      1. interest in locomotion (continuing to travel);
      2. an interest in control over his property; and
      3. a privacy interest in the car’s content

Search at Place Where Vehicle is StoppedCalifornia v. Carney (1985) – police generally have a right to conduct a warrantless search of a vehicle immediately at the place where they have stopped it (assuming that they had probable cause to make the stop)

  • The warrantless search here was valid, and fell within the vehicle exception to the requirement of a search warrant, recognized by Carroll
  • Carney also establishes that a mobile home will be treated as a “vehicle” (with its lesser expectation of privacy), rather than a fixed dwelling, at least where the home is parked in a parking lot (may be different if the home was fixed)

Automobile Inventories: Another Warrant “Exception” → A warrantless search of a car may be permissible on various grounds:

  1. If the police have probable cause to search a car, the Carroll-Chambers-Carney “automobile exception” comes into play;
  2. if an occupant (or recent occupant) of an automobile is arrested, the police may sometimes conduct, as an incident of the arrest, a contemporaneous search of the passenger compartment of the vehicle, even without probable cause to search;
  3. Automobile Inventory Warrant ExceptionSouth Dakota v. Opperman if the car is impounded because it has been towed for illegal parking, the Court has held, it may similarly be subjected to a warrantless “inventory search,” even though the police have never had probable cause to believe it contains contraband or evidence of crime

Collins v. Virginia (2018) → Whether the automobile exception to the Fourth Amendment permits a police officer, uninvited and without a warrant, to enter the curtilage of a home in order to search a vehicle parked therein – the warrantless search fell outside the scope of the automobile exception and could not be justified on that basis

  • The dual rationales for the automobile exception – mobility and reduced expectation of privacy – are based on the premise that automobiles are different and, therefore, less constitutionally protected than homes, b/c a home is the “first among equals”
  • And, “to give full protection of that right, the Court considers the curtilage – the area immediately surrounding and associated w/ the home – to be part of the home itself for 4th Amendment purposes
  • QUESTION – Is a warrant always needed if a vehicle is sitting in the driveway of a person’s home? → NO
    1. the motorcycle was “parked and unattended” – did not discuss whether a warrantless search of a vehicle in a driveway might be justified on other warrant-exception grounds, e.g., exigency or hot pursuit of a vehicle on a public road that turns into a driveway
    2. Precisely where the motorcycle was parked in the driveway, fell within the curtilage of the home → based on its location, it was parked in the curtilage of the house and entitled to the same protections that a home would receive
Containers in Cars
  • In Chambers – police found criminal evidence concealed in the compartment of the vehicle they searched
  • In Coolidge – police found particles of gun powder on the car upholstery/floor
  • In Carney – drugs and related paraphernalia were in plain view on a table inside the motor home
    • In all the cases, the criminal evidence was in plain view in the open
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