Fourth Amendment

The Federal Docket

Sanchez v. LADOT (9th Cir. May 2022)

The Ninth Circuit rejected a plaintiff’s Fourth Amendment challenge to the LA Department of Transportation’s permit scheme, wherein LA requires e-scooter companies like Bird and Lyft to collect real-time location data for their scooters and provide it to LADOT. The Court concluded there was no reasonable expectation of privacy under the third-party doctrine.

United States v. Jonas (1st Cir. January 2022)

The First Circuit held that the district court did not err in enforcing a DEA subpoena to New Hampshire’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP), holding that 1) a subpoena does not amount to a lawsuit against a state and thus does not violate its sovereignty, and 2) people do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in their prescription drug records given the closely regulated industry doctrine.

United States v. Nicholson (11th Cir. January 2022)

The Eleventh Circuit affirmed a defendant’s conviction and life sentence for federal child sex crimes and rejected his Fourth Amendment challenges. At issue was whether undisputed negligence by the FBI in its investigation, which involved the FBI waiting over six months to execute a warrant, well after the warrant’s deadline for the search, warranted suppression. The Court held that the violation of that deadline was akin to a violation of Rule 41 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, not a violation of the Fourth Amendment, so the defendant would have to show prejudice and a deliberate disregard of the rule by law enforcement, which the Court held the defendant did not do here. The Court emphasized that the good faith exception also applied to another search because the exclusionary rule was intended to apply only to “deliberate, reckless, or gross negligent disregard for Fourth Amendment rights,” and the FBI’s negligence in this case did not rise to that level.

United States v. Campbell (11th Cir. February 2022), EN BANC

In an en banc opinion, the Eleventh Circuit held that the Government’s failure to raise the good faith exception did not foreclose the appellate panel from affirming the district court’s denial of a motion to suppress on those grounds. The Court concluded that the government’s silence on the good faith exception in a direct appeal is a forfeiture, not a waiver, and thus an appellate panel can consider the issue sua sponte in extraordinary circumstances. The opinion includes a notable concurrence by Judge W. Pryor suggesting a willingness to overrule the exclusionary rule as an act of judicial intervention.

French v. Merrill (1st Cir. October 2021)

In an appeal from a grant of qualified immunity in a 1983 case, the First Circuit held that police officers violated clearly established Fourth Amendment law when they repeatedly entered the curtilage of a man’s home and knocked on his door and windows despite clear indications that he did not want to come to the door. The Court held this was clearly a violation of the man’s Fourth Amendment rights under Florida v. Jardines.

United States v. Latecia Watkins (11th Cir. September 2021)

On remand from the Eleventh Circuit’s en banc holding, the Court held that the district court erred in suppressing evidence where the government proved by a preponderance of the evidence that the incriminating evidence would have been discussed through lawful means despite the violation of the defendant’s rights. The agents had been contemplating a knock and talk, which would have revealed to them the incriminating drug evidence, and it was not controlling that they had discussed this tactic after the constitutional violation.

United States v. Gastelum (8th Cir. September 2021)

The Eighth Circuit affirmed a defendant’s conviction after he challenged an officer’s warrantless search of his rental car during a traffic stop. The Court held that the officer did not unlawfully prolong the traffic stop where reasonable suspicion existed to extend the stop based on the incongruity between the defendant’s stated travel plans and his rental car agreement, inconsistencies in the defendant’s travel history, the disparity between the cost of flying versus renting a car, and the defendant’s emphasis on his military background in response to questioning. Moreover, despite the officer initially commanding the defendant to open his trunk and let him search his luggage, the Court held the defendant’s consent was voluntary where the officer subsequently confirmed he had permission and the circumstances showed the officer was not acting authoritatively or in a confrontational manner.

United States v. Soybel (7th Cir. September 2021)

The Seventh Circuit affirmed a defendant’s sentence for initiating cyber attacks against his former employer. The Court held that suppression was not warranted where agents monitored the defendant’s internet traffic through a pen register for IP addresses, which was not meaningfully distinguishable from a pen register for phone numbers.

United States v. James Braddy (11th Cir. August 2021)

The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court’s denial of the defendant’s motion to suppress evidence from a traffic stop. The Court held that the officer’s mistaken interpretation of Alabama traffic law was reasonable, the officer did not unlawfully prolong the stop by asking the driver about his plans and itinerary or allowing his dog to sniff near the car, and there was probable cause to search the vehicle based on the dog’s change in behavior near the car, though the dog did not give a “final response” indicating the presence of drugs.

United States v. Latecia Watkins (11th Cir. August 2021), EN BANC

Sitting en banc, the Eleventh Circuit reversed prior precedents regarding the “Inevitable Discovery Doctrine” and held that, to preclude suppression of unlawfully obtained evidence, the Government must show by a “preponderance of the evidence” that law enforcement would have ultimately discovered the evidence through lawful means anyway. In doing so, the Eleventh Circuit abandoned the “reasonable probability” standard.

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