Search Warrants

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Nathanson v. United States, 290 U.S. 41 (1933)-“Under the Fourth Amendment, an officer [magistrate] may not properly issue a warrant to search a private dwelling unless he can find probable cause therefor from facts or circumstances presented to him under oath or affirmation. Mere affirmance of belief or suspicion is not enough.”

Marcus v. Search Warrant, 367 U.S. 717 (1961)-A search warrant used to seek obscene materials has First Amendment implications. Because of this, the search warrant must be very specific on what material is to be seized. The purpose is to avoid infringing on the owner's rights by seizing Constitutionally protected material. The officer on the scene must not have to make a quick, undeliberated decision on what material is obscene. In this case, the police seized 280 publications for sale. Only 100 were deemed to be obscene. The seizure of the other 180 publications violated the owner's First Amendment rights of freedom of speech and press.

A Quantity of Books v. Kansas, 378 U.S. 205 (1964)-In order to protect the First Amendment rights of the owner, a hearing on obscenity must occur before a search warrant is issued for the seizure of obscene materials.

Warden v. Hayden, 387 US 294 (1967)-This case overturned the "mere evidence" rule of Gouled v. US, 255 US 298 (1921). The "mere evidence" rule excluded items seized during the execution of a search that were not one of the following:

The court in Warden allowed the admission of clothing matching eyewitness' descriptions of the clothing worn by an armed robber. The clothing was "mere evidence", but was constitutionally seized.

Coolidge v. New Hampshire, 403 U.S. 443 (1971)-New Hampshire state law authorized the state Attorney General to issue search warrants. He did so in this case in which he was directing the investigation. The USSC ruled that the Attorney General was not a neutral and detached magistrate required by the US Constitution.

US v. Harris, 403 U.S. 573 (1971)-The credibility of an unproven confidential informant is bolstered by his own admission of criminal activity with the defendant to support a finding of probable cause for a search. The USSC further determined that the "criminal reputation" of the suspect could be considered in a search warrant application. The suspect's criminal reputation cannot in and of itself be used to determine probable cause, but it can be combined with other factual statements that in whole rises to that level.

US v. Davis, 461 F.2d 1026 (3rd Cir, 1972)-if the police have reasonable suspicion to believe that evidence will be destroyed if they delay entry to obtain a warrant, then exigent circumstances exist for the police to make entry. 

Cupp v. Murphy, 412 US 291 (1973)-If there is truly an imminent destruction of evidence, a warrantless search is allowable. In this case, Cupp, who was suspected of murder, voluntarily came to the police station for questioning. The police had developed information that Cupp scratched the victim. They noticed that he had blood on his finger. When the police asked Cupp to submit to a fingernail scraping, he put his hands in his pockets and appeared to be trying to destroy the evidence. The police forced Cupp to submit to a fingernail scraping.

Andresen v. Maryland, 427 US 463 (1976)-Prior to this case items to be seized must be specifically listed in a search warrant, Marron v. US, 275 US 192 (1927). The Burger Court in Andresen allowed a more general description of the types of items to be seized as long as the description refers to items that are evidence of the crime(s) mentioned in the warrant.

US v. Miller, 425 U.S. 435 (1976)-A person does not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in his bank records. Bank records are not a person's "private papers." "The Fourth Amendment does not prohibit the obtaining of information revealed to a third party and conveyed by him to Government authorities." A subpoena and not a search warrant is sufficient to obtain the records.

Mincey v. Arizona, 437 U.S. 385 (1978)-There is no "murder scene exception" to the search warrant requirement. Lacking exigent circumstances, a search warrant is required to search a home where a murder occurred.

Ybarra v. Illinois, 444 U.S. 85 (1979)-Police executed a search warrant on a tavern. The targets of the search were the tavern and the bartender, not the patrons. Lacking probable cause, the police cannot extend the search to include the patrons.

Walter v. US, 447 U.S. 649 (1980)-Rightfully or wrongfully if a private citizen opens a container belonging to another and discovers evidence, it is not a violation of the Fourth Amendment. If the citizen then turns the container over to the police, the police can examine the container to the same extent as the citizen without a warrant. In this case, a private carrier delivered a box of gay pornography films. The citizen that received the box, opened it and found the films. The citizen examined the labels on the film rolls, but did not view the films. The films were turned over to the FBI. The FBI could properly examine the labeling, but violated the Fourth Amendment when they exceeded what the citizen did and viewed the films without a warrant.

Michigan v. Summers, 452 U.S. 692 (1981)-The execution of a search warrant implicitly carries with it the limited authority to temporarily detain the occupants of a house until the search is completed. The detention is justified to: 1. Prevent flight in the event that incriminating evidence is found; 2.Minimize the risk of harm to the officers; and  3. Ensure the orderly completion of the search.

US v. Jacobsen, 466 U.S. 109 (1984)-This case is similar to the Walter case. The employees of a private carrier examined a damaged box. They found that it contained a white powdery substance. The box was turned over to a DEA agent. He removed a trace amount of the powder and field tested it with a positive result for cocaine. The USSC ruled that the minor intrusion of removing a trace amount of powder from the packaging for testing without a warrant was reasonable. The court added, "The additional invasions of respondents' privacy by the DEA agent must be tested by the degree to which they exceeded the scope of the private search."

US v. Leon, 468 U.S. 897 (1984)-The exclusionary rule should not be applied if a police officer in good faith obtains evidence while reasonably relying on a search warrant issued by a judge, but the warrant was later found to be invalid.

Exclusionary circumstances:

United States v. McConney, 728 F.2d 1195, 1199 (9th Cir.)(1984)-EXIGENT CIRCUMSTANCES - Emergency conditions. 'Those circumstances that would cause a reasonable person to believe that entry (or other relevant prompt action) was necessary to prevent physical harm to the officers or other persons, the destruction of relevant evidence, the escape of a suspect, or some other consequence improperly frustrating legitimate law enforcement efforts.'

California v. Greenwood, 486 U.S. 35 (1988)-The Fourth Amendment does not prohibit the warrantless search and seizure of trash left for collection outside the curtilage of a home.

US v. Hall, 47 F.3d 1091 (11 Cir. 1995)-Unless a business takes steps to exclude access to its trash dumpsters by the public, police can enter onto the property and remove the trash without a warrant.

Wilson v. Arkansas, 514 US 927 (1995)-The court determined that the Fourth Amendment requires under most circumstances police officers to knock and announce their presence and the reason for their forced entry before doing so. The lower courts, however, can make a determination under what circumstances an unannounced entry can be made. 

Richards v. Wisconsin, 520 U.S. 385 (1997)-The court struck down a blanket Wisconsin rule allowing that no announcement is needed before entry is made on a felony drug case warrant service.  The police must at least have reasonable suspicion that the announcement is futile, evidence would be destroyed, or there is a risk of injury to the officers. 

US v. Carey, No. 98-3077 (10th Cir. 1999)-Officers obtained a warrant to search a computer for evidence relating to drug dealing. During the search of the computer, the officer discovered an image of child pornography. He expanded from the search authorized for drug related evidence to evidence of child pornography. Over two hundred images were found. The prosecution argued that the images were properly seized since they found as a result of plain view. The Circuit Court, however, suppressed the evidence. It held that once the officer found the first image of child pornography, he should have stopped and obtained another search warrant. The Court rejected the plain view arguement because the officer reasonably suspected the image files contained child pornography, but had to open them to confirm it. He did not have the right to open the closed files.

U.S. v. Bach, No. 02-1238, (8th Cir. 2002)- Yahoo!'s execution of the search warrant in this case did not violate Bach's Fourth Amendment rights. The Fourth Amendment does not explicitly require official presence during a warrant's execution, therefore it is not an automatic violation if no officer is present during a search.

US v. Banks, 540 US 31 (2003)-Officers went to Banks' apartment to serve a search warrant to look for cocaine. The court ruled that a 15 to 20 second delay after announcing before making forcible entry was reasonable under the circumstances. The court said that the rapidity of the destruction of evidence justified the time length.

United States v. Rhiger, 315 F.3d 1283(10th Cir.)(2003)-The defendant was observed by federal drug agents driving two companions to locations where materials were bought. The materials were components used to manufacture methamphetamine. The agents observed the material being carried into a house. They observed the house for about an hour. They then detected the odor of cooking meth coming from the house. The agents entered the house without a warrant fearing that an active lab could explode. The agents rendered the lab safe, secured the residence, and obtained a search warrant. The entry to the residence was lawful because it was a public safety exception under exigent circumstances.

Groh v. Ramirez, 540 U.S. 551 (2004)-A police officer is required to read a search warrant and make sure that it is not obviously defective before executing it. A police officer does not have qualified immunity when executing an obviously defective search warrant. In this case the application for the warrant contained in detail the objects of the search and the items to be seized. The warrant did not.

Muehler v. Mena, 544 U.S. 93 (2005)-Mena brought a 1983 suit because she was kept in handcuffs for 2 to 3 hours while a search warrant was executed at her residence. The court stated the following: "The use of force in the form of handcuffs to detain Mena was reasonable because the governmental interest in minimizing the risk of harm to both officers and occupants, at its maximum when a warrant authorizes a search for weapons and a wanted gang member resides on the premises, outweighs the marginal intrusion."

US v. Grubbs, 000 US 04-1414 (2006)-If an officer has probable cause to believe that an item of evidence will arrive at a place at a certain time, he can apply for a search warrant ahead of time to be executed after the item arrives. This is called an anticipatory warrant. Anticipatory warrants can be issued under to following circumstances:

Hudson v. Michigan, 547 U. S. 586 (2006)-The violation of the "knock-and-announce" rule by police during the execution of a search warrant is not sufficient to exclude evidence as "fruit of the poisonous tree."

Los Angeles County v. Rettele, 550 U.S. 609 (2007)-The police had probable cause when they obtained a search warrant for a residence. The suspects in the police investigation, unknown to the police, moved from the residence 3 months earlier. The the new residents were not involved with the suspects, and were of a different race. The police entered into the residence and forced Rettele and his girlfriend Sadler, who were both in bed and unclothed, out of the bed at gunpoint. They had to stand exposed for approximately 2 minutes while the police swept the room for guns and other subjects. They were then allowed to get dressed. The police quickly realized that Rettele was not the target of the warrant and apologized and left. Rettele sued claiming the police obtained the warrant in an unreasonable manner and conducted an unreasonable search and detention.

Held: The Fourth Amendment allows warrants to issue on probable cause, a standard well short of absolute certainty. Valid warrants will issue to search the innocent, and people like Rettele and Sadler unfortunately bear the cost. Officers executing search warrants on occasion enter a house when residents are engaged in private activity; and the resulting frustration, embarrassment, and humiliation may be real, as was true here. When officers execute a valid warrant and act in a reasonable manner to protect themselves from harm, however, the Fourth Amendment is not violated.

US v. Warshak, 08-3997 (6th Cir. 2010)-The court struck down part of the Stored Communications Act (“SCA”), 18 U.S.C. §§ 2701 et seq., that allows the government to obtain certain electronic communications without procuring a warrant.The court held that a search warrant based on probable cause is required to compel an Internet Service Provider to turn over emails to government agents.

Bailey v. US, 11-770 (2013)-The three reasons for detaining a subject at the scene of an executed search warrant listed under Michigan v. Summers do not apply to occupants of a vehicle that had already left the scene.

US v. Davis, No. 12-12928 (11th Cir. 2014)-Officers were investigating Davis for committing a string of robberies. The police obtained information from Davis' and his co-conspirators' cell phone providers without a warrant that showed they both made and received phone calls in the areas where the robberies occurred at about the times the robberies occurred. Held: Cell site location information is within the subscriber’s reasonable expectation of privacy. The obtaining of that data without a warrant is a Fourth Amendment violation.

US v. Pulliam, No. 13-1026 (10th Cir. 2014)-Police executed a search warrant at Pulliam's residence. The officer only gave him a copy of the warrant, but did not include the attachments listing the particular items to be seized. The Court held that the copy given to Pulliam was sufficient to satisfy the requirement of notifying Pulliam that the officers have a warrant and are acting under Court approval. The attachments are part of the court record and can be reviewed anytime by Pulliam. His motion to suppress on this ground was denied.

City of Los Angeles v. Patel, No. 13-1175 (SCOTUS, 2015)-The Court held that police, absent consent, must have a warrant or administrative subpoena to see a hotel's guest records.