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Search and seizure cases seek U.S. Supreme Court decisions

On Behalf of | Sep 7, 2023 | Criminal Defense |

California residents rely on their Fourth Amendment rights to protect them from unlawful searches and seizures by law enforcement. Although the right sounds clear, new scenarios continually raise questions about what police can call lawful when looking for evidence of wrongdoing. As a result, two people caught up in questionable police searches have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to hear their cases.

Drug-sniffing dog goes too far

A defendant whose traffic stop resulted in a search warrant for his motel room initially won in a state-level supreme court when lawyers opposed actions by a police K-9 dog. Police had the dog circle the defendant’s vehicle at a traffic stop. The dog jumped and placed paws on the vehicle, which prompted police to search the vehicle.

Evidence of methamphetamine found in the vehicle led to more searches and prosecution. The defendant’s lawyers successfully argued that the dog touching the vehicle to this extent represented an unlawful search and seizure because contact was not limited to the air around the vehicle. The state is now appealing the matter to the Supreme Court.

Open car door reveals suspicious substance

Another case involving a man stopped for tinted windows may also receive the attention of the Supreme Court. In this case, police saw a joint inside the vehicle after the door was left open while an officer patted down the driver. Police subsequently searched the vehicle and found a gun. The man’s criminal defense strategy in this case failed to convince the state-level judiciary that the search should not have taken place.

However, lawyers hope to get a different decision should the Supreme Court choose to hear the case. They argue that law enforcement will use any open car or building door as a means of conducting searches.