Fourth Amendment

The Federal Docket

United States v. Latecia Watkins (11th Cir. December 2020)

The Eleventh Circuit reversed a district court’s suppression order, holding that even though the officers had violated the defendant’s Fourth Amendment rights by monitoring a tracking device that was in her home, there was a “reasonable probability” that the agents would have eventually conducted a knock and talk at her residence and been able to discover the tracker anyway.

SCOTUS Declines to Determine Fourth Amendment Standard For Border Searches, Leaving Circuit Split Intact

The U.S. Supreme Court denied ceriorari to a petitioner seeking the Court’s determination as to what standard applies to Fourth Amendment searches at the U.S. border. The Court’s decision not to step in leaves in place a circuit split between courts that hold no probable cause or reasonable suspicion is required for law enforcement to conduct searches and those that hold there must at least be some degree of reasonable suspicion.

United States v. Matthew Beaudion (5th Cir. November 2020)

The Fifth Circuit affirmed a district court’s holding that defendant lacked Fourth Amendment standing to challenge law enforcement’s search for the GPS location of girlfriend’s cell phone while he was with her. While the boyfriend had purchased the phone before giving it to his girlfriend, knew the password, used the phone frequently, and accessed his Facebook account on the phone, the Court held that he did not have a reasonable expectation in the phone because the girlfriend carried it throughout the day, the defendant never used it outside her presence, and her parents paid the bill. The Court further held that Carpenter did not apply here because law enforcement was trying to determine the girlfriend’s location, not the defendant’s.

United States v. John Gayden (11th Cir. October 2020)

The Eleventh Circuit affirmed a defendant doctor’s conviction and sentence for operating a “pill mill.” Among other things, the Court held that a physician does not have standing to challenge the search of a Prescription Drug Monitoring Program because they do not have a privacy interest in their prescriptions. The Court also held that dismissal of the indictment, obtained five years after the defendant’s clinic shut down, was not warranted because the defendant could prove prejudice but not that the government engaged in any deliberative conduct to gain a tactical advantage over him.

United States v. Tamaran Bontemps (9th Cir. October 2020)

The Ninth Circuit affirmed the defendant’s conviction for being a felon in possession of a firearm. The Court held that there was reasonable suspicion to detain and search the defendant based solely on the officer believing he had a concealed firearm (illegal in California) after noticing a “very large and obvious bulge” under the defendant’s sweatshirt. The Court also discussed other kinds of “suggestive bulges” that can give rise to reasonable suspicion, such as when a defendant is hiding drugs.

United States v. Toddrey Bruce (11th Cir. October 2020)

The Eleventh Circuit affirmed denial of a defendant’s motion to suppress where the defendant had been apprehended by law enforcement after fleeing upon their approach. The Court held that the officers had reasonable suspicion to detain the defendant where they were responding to a 911 call at 3AM in a high-crime area and the caller had noted that two men were arguing, one with a gun, and there could be shooting at any time.

United States v. Tyslen Baker (6th Cir. September 2020)

The Sixth Circuit held that the good faith exception under Leon applies to arrest warrants as well as search warrants, affirming the district court’s denial of defendant’s motion to suppress evidence seized when agents executed an arrest warrant at his residence and place of business.

United States v. Miguel Angel Cano (9th Cir. September 2020), Denying Rehearing En Banc

The Ninth Circuit declined a rehearing en banc, leaving in place a panel opinion holding that a warrantless forensic search of the defendant’s phone was outside the scope of a permissible routine border search and violated the Fourth Amendment. The Court held that warrantless border searches are limited in scope to routine customs inspections for contraband, not evidence, that the only kind of contraband on a phone is child pornography, and that the officers did not have reasonable suspicion that the phone contained child pornography.

United States v. Javier Garcia (9th Cir. August 2020)

The Ninth Circuit vacated the defendant’s conviction and held that the attenuation doctrine should not have been applied to deny his motion to suppress. The officers’ second, discretionary search of the defendant’s home was a direct result of a prior unlawful sweep of the home during which officers discovered that the defendant had a condition of supervised release allowing searches. The temporal proximity between the searches and the investigatory motives of the officers outweighed the intervening nature of discovering the condition of supervised release, and evidence discovered during the second search should have been suppressed.

United States v. Jovon Lovelle Medley (4th Cir. August 2020)

Applying the Rehaif analysis to a defendant who was convicted at trial for unlawful possession of a firearm as a convicted felon, the Fourth Circuit reversed the defendant’s conviction as plain error, holding that the failure to properly advise the defendant of, or charge him with, the element of knowledge of his felon status substantially affected his rights and deprived him of a defense at trial, despite the defendant running from the police, his prior 12-year prison term, and his stipulations at trial regarding his prior conviction and civil rights, .

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