Categories & Search

Category: Fourth Amendment

Court Finds Condition of Supervised Release Invalid

In United States v. Browder, the Second Circuit (Cabranes, Lohier, Forrest, sitting by designation) has vacated in part an order finding that the defendant violated two conditions of supervised release. The Court’s decision sheds light on the respective roles of the district court and the Probation Office in entering and executing an order of supervised release, and it suggests that the Court may look with increased scrutiny at generalized conditions that defer to the Probation Office without sufficient judicial scrutiny, and may reject violation specifications based on those infirm conditions.

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When A Police Stop Is Not A Stop

Yesterday the Second Circuit, in United States v. Huertas (15-4014) weighed in on the question of when a suspect’s brief encounter with police can support a finding that the suspect was “seized” within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment.  Judge Jacobs, joined by Judge Winter, concluded that a suspect who briefly pauses to answer a police officer’s questions, but then proceeds to flee, has not been “seized.”  Judge Pooler dissented, pointing to out-of-Circuit precedent and arguing that a suspect’s encounter with police generally constitutes a seizure if it extends beyond a “momentary halt.”

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Exigent Circumstances Under the Fourth Amendment May Extend to the Need to Interview an Arrestee in Place

In a split decision in United States v. Delva, No. 15-cr-683 (Kearse, Winter, Jacobs), the Second Circuit held that the Fourth Amendment allowed law enforcement officers to seize cell phones and a number of letters that were in plain view in the room of a suspect’s home where he was interviewed immediately after an arrest.  The majority opinion, written by Judge Kearse, relied on the “exigent circumstances” doctrine to hold that it was reasonable under the circumstances to hold an interview in the suspect’s home, which allowed the officers to seize incriminating evidence that was in plain view without obtaining a search warrant.  Although the majority opinion is careful to recognize that the exigent circumstances exception requires a case-by-case analysis, the decision extends the infrequently applied exigent circumstances doctrine to a new set of facts.  The decision drew a dissent from Judge Jacobs, who objected to the majority’s reliance on the exigent circumstances doctrine when the government had not raised it in the trial or appellate court, thus denying the defendant any chance to respond to this somewhat novel analysis offered by the Court.

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Second Circuit Provides Primer on Criminal Procedure in Methamphetamine Case

In United States v. Lyle, 15-958-cr (Raggi, Chin, Lohier), the Second Circuit covered an array of criminal procedure issues—including the Fourth Amendment concerns associated with rental car searches, proffer agreement waivers, and the admissibility of a co-defendant’s confession—in the course of affirming the defendants’ narcotics conspiracy convictions.  Lyle leaves unresolved the issue of whether an unauthorized driver ever has a reasonable expectation of privacy in a rental car.  It does provide, however, an important reminder of the potential pitfalls of proffer agreements and the challenges that arise when trying multiple defendants together.

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Court Upholds Murder-for-Hire Conviction, Rejects Fourth Amendment Challenges

The murder-for-hire statute makes it a crime to agree to commit murder in exchange for “anything of pecuniary value.” 18 U.S.C. § 1958. The Second Circuit has understood this language to require that, at the time of the agreement, there was a quid pro quo or at least the promise of some pecuniary consideration. In United States v. Babilonia, No. 14-3739, the Court (Chin, Carney, and Cogan, sitting by designation) reaffirmed this “pecuniary consideration” requirement, but then suggested it presents a minimal hurdle where there was payment after the fact.[1]

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The Circuit Raises A Glass To A Broad Construction Of Law Enforcement’s Authority Under The Fourth Amendment

Yesterday the Second Circuit issued a decision in United States v. Diaz, No. 15-3776 (Walker, Sack, Chin).  In an opinion by Judge Sack, the Court addressed two questions under the Fourth Amendment:  when does a police officer have probable cause to make an arrest under an ambiguous law, and whether an officer can conduct a search incident to arrest if she only intends to issue a citation.

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Law Enforcement Permitted To Obtain GPS Location Data Without A Warrant In A Sex Trafficking Investigation

In United States v. Gilliam, 15-387, the Second Circuit (Newman, Winter, Cabranes) held that, under the exigent circumstances present in that case, law enforcement could use cell phone GPS data to locate a suspect without obtaining a warrant consistent with both the Stored Communications Act and the Fourth Amendment.  This appeal presents one of many unanswered questions arising out of cellphone technology.  While cellphones are far from new, there are still some questions about how cellphone data can be used in investigations and at trial.

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Second Circuit Reverses Denial of Motion to Suppress Evidence Found During Protective Search

Recently, in U.S. v. Hussain et al., No. 14-4425-cr, the Court (Calabresi, J., Lynch, J., Lohier, J.) reversed a district court’s denial of a motion to suppress a loaded gun found during a protective search of the defendant’s car.  In so doing, the Court noted its doubt that the same set of facts would have given rise to a suspicion of dangerousness had the Jamaican-American defendant been of a different race, gender, or socio-economic background.  This candid remark from the Court is in keeping with the social and political issues that have been raised more broadly about the need for fairness and the appearance of fairness in how our criminal laws are enforced.    

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Can you find me now? “Exigent circumstances” permit warrantless “pings” of cell phone GPS location

In United States v. Caraballo, 12-3839-cr (L) (August 1, 2016) (Calabresi, Lynch, Lohier), the Court held that “exigent circumstances”—here, suspicion of involvement in a recent murder and potential danger to law enforcement—justified a warrantless “pinging” of defendant’s cell phone to determine his location.  The Court accordingly affirmed the district court’s denial of defendant’s motion to suppress statements he made after police located him through a series of “pings” executed by his cell phone carrier.

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Second Circuit Affirms Reasonableness of Extended Terry Stop: Two Brothers, 145 Pounds of Marijuana, and a “Sudden Pepper Emergency”

In United States v. Compton, 15-942-cr (Walker, Raggi, Hall), the Second Circuit held that an extended Terry stop by Border Patrol agents was justified by reasonable suspicion and declined to suppress evidence obtained during the stop.  Compton confirms the proposition that a court may consider a defendant’s attempt to avoid a checkpoint as a relevant factor in the “reasonable suspicion analysis” and highlights the fact-intensive nature of that analysis.

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The Government Cannot Compel Disclosure of Emails Stored on Overseas Servers via a Domestic Warrant

Can the Government employ a domestic search warrant to compel disclosure of communications stored on servers located outside of the United States?  In its much anticipated decision in In the Matter of a Warrant to Search a Certain E-Mail Account Controlled and Maintained by Microsoft Corporation, 14-2985 (“Microsoft”), a Second Circuit panel (Lynch, J., Carney, J., Bolden, J., sitting by designation) answered that it cannot.

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Determining whether a “custodial interrogation” exists requires a heavily fact-specific analysis

How does the Government successfully “toe the line” when it comes to custodial interrogations for suppression purposes?  In United States v. Faux, 15-1282-cr, the Court (Jacobs, J., Hall, J., Restani, J., sitting by designation) answered this question after undertaking a fact-intensive inquiry and determining that the weight of the evidence balanced against suppression.  Faux underscores that there is no bright-line rule for determining whether an individual is in custody (and therefore entitled to Miranda warnings); rather, the court must engage in a fact-specific analysis that carefully weighs mitigating and aggravating factors.

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No Fourth Amendment Violation Where Subject of Valid Arrest Warrant is Arrested While in Residence of Third Party

In United States v. Bohannon, No. 14-4679 (RR, RCW, CFD), the Second Circuit held that when the subject of an arrest warrant is arrested at a third party’s residence where he is a guest, his Fourth Amendment privacy rights are satisfied so long as the arresting officers possess (1) a valid arrest warrant for the subject, and (2) reason to believe that the subject is on the premises.  In so doing, the Court declined to require law enforcement officials to take the additional step of obtaining a search warrant for the third party’s residence in order to arrest the suspect guest.  This was an interlocutory appeal after the district court suppressed evidence seized incident to the defendant’s arrest.  While the panel affirmed the district court’s legal analysis on an open question of search-and-seizure law, it reversed the suppression order after a close analysis of the relevant facts.

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En Banc Ruling Avoids Complicated Fourth Amendment Question

In United States v. Stavros Ganias, 12-240, the Second Circuit, in a rare en banc ruling jointly written by Judges Livingston and Lynch, sidestepped a complicated Fourth Amendment issue related to the government’s retention of files from a hard drive outside the scope of a warrant, and instead affirmed the defendant’s conviction on the ground that, regardless of whether there was a Fourth Amendment violation, the government reasonably relied in good faith on a later warrant to search those files.  The en banc holding reversed the decision of a divided Second Circuit panel that came down nearly a year ago, which reversed the district court’s denial of the motion to suppress and vacated the judgment of conviction.  All of the judges on the Court, except for Judge Chin, either joined in the opinion or concurred in the result.  The novel and important question raised in this appeal—whether the government can retain electronic files collected pursuant to a search warrant and later search those files for a separate purpose, pursuant to a second search warrant—will need to be addressed in another case or by Congress. 

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