Wednesday, February 12, 2020

February(ish) Fourth Amendment Extravaganza

Seizure: In United States v. Hood, a D.C. district court held that a defendant was seized when a uniformed and armed officer got out of his car, approached the defendant on foot, shined a flashlight at him, and told him to "hold on a sec." Because there was no reasonable suspicion justifying the detention, the firearm subsequently discovered in the defendant's waistband was suppressed.

Exigent Circumstances: In United States v. Rodriguez-Pacheco, the First Circuit held that the officers' warrantless entry into the defendant's home to investigate a domestic-violence allegation was unconstitutional. The court rejected the government's exigent circumstances justification, holding that  the fact that the the defendant was a police officer who kept his service weapon at home did not justify the entry. The court noted that the defendant was unarmed, had not threatened violence, had no history of violence, and the gun was not connected to the crime being investigated. The information found from a search of the cellphone, camera and laptop seized during the entry was suppressed.

Warrant Overbreadth: In United States v. Burkhow, an Iowa district court held that a warrant authorizing the search of the defendant's entire Facebook account was overbroad, and exceeded the probable cause on which the warrant was based. The court noted that the warrant did not contain temporal limitations, or any restrictions to a specific type of account activity or interactions with specific people. "Given that social media profiles often contain a wide array of personal data spanning years, some restriction here was necessary to prevent a general rummaging beyond limiting seizure to the offenses being investigated."

Right to Observe the Police: In Chestnut v. Burds, the Eighth Circuit affirmed the denial of qualified immunity to a police officer who stopped, frisked, and handcuffed a bystander watching another police officer perform traffic stops. The court found there were genuine disputes of fact, such as whether the bystander was suspiciously "lurking" in the darkness, or whether he purposefully remained visible to the officers. The court also held that if the bystander was, as he says, visible and not interfering, then the officer clearly violated his "clearly established right to watch police-citizen interactions at a distance and without interfering."

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