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    Criminal Law Blog

    Gale Burns

    Recent Posts

    CRIMINAL LAW: Warrantless Search of Cell Phones

    Posted by Gale Burns on Tue, Aug 12, 2014 @ 12:08 PM

    The Lawletter Vol 39 No 6

    Doug Plank, Senior Attorney, National Legal Research Group

         In what some commentators have described as the most important criminal law decision of its 2013-2014 Term, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously in Riley v. California, 134 S. Ct. 2473 (2014), that before police may search the contents of a cell phone seized after an arrest, they must first obtain a search warrant. In reaching this determination, which is a departure from the Court's general rule that a person's belongings may be searched without a warrant incident to an arrest of that person, the Court found that "[c]ell phones differ in both a quantitative and a qualitative sense from other objects that might be kept on an arrestee's person." Id. at 2489. In fact, the Court noted, many cell phones are actually minicomputers that also happen to have the capacity to be used as a telephone, and they could just as easily be called cameras, video players, Rolodexes, calendars, tape recorders, libraries, diaries, albums, televisions, maps, or newspapers. The Court found that because cell phones are both a repository of sensitive personal data, with immense storage capacity, and a portal to private records stored on remote servers, they simply could not fairly be said to be analogous to physical containers under the search-incident-to-arrest rule.

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    Topics: legal research, cell phone, warrantless search, U.S. Supreme court, Doug Plank, criminal law, not analogous to physical containers, Riley v. California, only case-specific exceptions applicable

    CRIMINAL LAW: Driving Under the Influence of a Proscribed Drug or "Its Metabolite"

    Posted by Gale Burns on Tue, Jul 22, 2014 @ 10:07 AM

    The Lawletter Vol 39 No 5

    Suzanne Bailey, Senior Attorney, National Legal Research Group

         Arizona is one of seven states that make it unlawful for a driver to be in actual physical control of a motor vehicle while there is a proscribed drug or "its metabolite" in the operator's body. Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 28-1381(A)(3). (The other six zero-tolerance jurisdictions are Delaware, Georgia, Indiana, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, and Utah. Joshua C. Snow, The Unconstitutional Prosecution of Controlled Substance Metabolites Under Utah Code § 41-6a-517, 2013 Utah L. Rev. OnLaw 195, 212 n.14 (2013).) In State ex rel. Montgomery v. Harris, 322 P.3d 160 (Ariz. 2014), the Supreme Court of Arizona was asked to determine whether the phrase "its metabolite" includes Carboxy-Tetrahydrocannabinol ("Carboxy-THC"), a nonimpairing metabolite of marijuana, which is a drug proscribed by statute. The court concluded that it does not.

         In Montgomery, the driver was stopped for speeding and making unsafe lane changes. After admitting to smoking some "weed" the night before, the driver voluntarily submitted to a blood test that revealed Carboxy-THC in his blood. He was charged with driving under the influence of a drug, in violation of section 28-1381(A)(1), and driving while a metabolite of a proscribed drug was in his body, in violation of section 28-1381(A)(3). The justice court dismissed the charge based on the presence of "its metabolite," and the State voluntarily dismissed the driving-under-the-influence charge. The superior court affirmed the justice court, but the court of appeals reversed, finding that the statute included the metabolite Carboxy-THC and that inclusion was not overbroad. State ex rel. Montgomery v. Harris ex rel. County of Maricopa, 301 P.3d 580 (Ariz. Ct. App. 2013). The state supreme court vacated the opinion of the court of appeals and affirmed the dismissal of the "its metabolite" charge, with one justice dissenting.

         The court found "its metabolite" to be ambiguous because it could mean all of a proscribed drug's metabolites, some of its metabolites, or only metabolites that cause impairment. The driver argued that the phrase referred to only Hydroxy-THC, the initial product of the metabolism of THC. The State insisted that the statute referred to all metabolites, including the nonimpairing Carboxy-THC, which was tested for. Significantly, the impairing Hydroxy-THC does not remain in the blood for very long and quickly converts to Carboxy-THC, which is why the State tests for Carboxy-THC but not for Hydroxy-THC. Carboxy-THC, on the other hand, can remain in the body for as many as 28 to 30 days after the ingestion of marijuana.

         Looking to the legislative history, which demonstrated an intent to prevent impaired driving, the court concluded that "its metabolite" is limited to metabolites capable of causing impairment. To hold otherwise could lead to the absurd result that a driver could be found guilty regardless of how long the metabolite remained in his or her body or whether it had an impairing effect. Furthermore, given that Arizona legalizes marijuana for medicinal purposes, the State's overinclusive reading could criminalize legitimate use after the impairing effects have worn off. Finally, a broad reading of "its metabolite" could allow the prosecution of an individual who drives after ingesting a legal substance that shares a nonimpairing metabolite with a proscribed substance.

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    Topics: legal research, John Buckley, criminal law, proscribed drug, metabolite, zero tolerance, Arizona Supreme Court, State ex rel. Montgomery v. Harris, "metabolite" definition ambiguous in sta, driving under the influence, narrow reading of statute, The Lawletter Vol 39 No 5

    CRIMINAL LAW: Search and Seizure—Warrantless Search of Motor Vehicle

    Posted by Gale Burns on Tue, Jun 3, 2014 @ 12:06 PM

    The Lawletter Vol 39 No 4

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    Topics: legal research, search and seizure, warrantless search, motor vehicle, Pa. Supreme Court, Commonwealth v. Gary, federal automobile exception to warrant requiremen, Pa. Const. not more prohibitive than Fourth Amendm, criminal law, Mark Rieber, The Lawletter Vol 39 No 4

    CRIMINAL LAW UPDATE: Validity of Warrantless Searches of Cell Phones Incident to Arrest

    Posted by Gale Burns on Thu, May 22, 2014 @ 12:05 PM

    Mark Rieber, Senior Attorney, National Legal Research Group

         In January 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court granted certiorari in two cases to resolve a split in the lower courts concerning whether the search-incident-to-arrest doctrine that allows law enforcement to seize the cell phone of an arrestee also allows a warrantless search of the seized phone. See United States v. Wurie, 728 F.3d 1 (1st Cir. 2013), cert. granted, 134 S. Ct. 999 (2014); People v. Riley, No. D059840, 2013 WL 475242 (Cal. Ct. App. Feb. 8, 2013) (unpublished), review denied (Cal. May 1, 2013) cert. granted in part, 134 S. Ct. 999 (2014).

         In Wurie, a divided panel of the First Circuit held that the search-incident-to-arrest exception does not authorize the warrantless search of data on a cell phone seized from an arrestee's person, because such search is not necessary to protect arresting officers or preserve destructible evidence. The panel acknowledged that a majority of courts, including California's, have ultimately upheld warrantless cell phone data searches, but it observed that the courts have used a variety of approaches to reach this conclusion.

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    Topics: legal research, criminal law, Mark Rieber, warrantless searches, cell phones, search incident to arrest, preserve data, protection of arresting officers, United States v. Wurie, 1st Cir., People v. Riley, Cal. Supreme Court

    CRIMINAL LAW: Limits on Prosecution of Consensual Sexual Relations

    Posted by Gale Burns on Mon, Dec 2, 2013 @ 15:12 PM

    The Lawletter Vol 38 No 9

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    Topics: legal research, John Buckley, The Lawletter Vol 38 No 9, criminal, consensual sexual relations, violation of Due Process Clause to prohibit indivi, state must protect certain class explicitly for pr, Lawrence bars prosecution or reduction of charges

    CRIMINAL LAW: Retroactivity of Supreme Court Decision in Padilla v. Kentucky

    Posted by Gale Burns on Wed, Nov 6, 2013 @ 13:11 PM

    The Lawletter Vol 38 No 8

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    Topics: legal research, The Lawletter Vol 38 No 8, criminal law, Mark Rieber, retroactivity of Padilla, Chaidez v. United States, Commonwealth v. Sylvain, new rule not dictated by precedent, Amendment VI right to effective counsel

    CRIMINAL LAW: Search and Seizure: Taking of DNA Samples from Criminal Suspects

    Posted by Gale Burns on Tue, Sep 10, 2013 @ 10:09 AM

    The Lawletter Vol 38 No 6

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    Topics: legal research, The Lawletter Vol 38 No 6, Fourth Amendment, search and seizure, DNA identification of suspects, Maryland v. King, states taking and collection is reasonable intrus, U.S. Supreme court, Doug Plank, criminal law

    CRIMINAL LAW: False Confessions—Admissibility of Expert Testimony

    Posted by Gale Burns on Mon, Aug 12, 2013 @ 11:08 AM

    The Lawletter Vol 38 No 5

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    Topics: legal research, Michigan, The Lawletter Vol 38 No 5, criminal, Mark Rieber, false confessions, admissibility, expert testimony, People v. Kowalski, inadmissible if insufficient facts, unreliable methods

    CRIMINAL LAW: Search Warrant Requirement—Drunk Driving—No Per Se Exigency for Exception to Warrant Requirement

    Posted by Gale Burns on Mon, Jul 15, 2013 @ 16:07 PM

    The Lawletter Vol 38 No 4

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    Topics: legal research, warrant requirement, nonconsensual blood testing, breathalyzer refusal, blood test refusal, Missouri v. McNeely, drunk driving no per se exigency for warrantless b, The Lawletter Vol 38 No 4, U.S. Supreme court, criminal, Mark Rieber

    CRIMINAL LAW: Gun Restrictions

    Posted by Gale Burns on Tue, May 28, 2013 @ 16:05 PM

    The Lawletter Vol 38 No 3

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    Topics: legal research, gun restrictions, mixed opinions from Circuits on scope of "pro, The Lawletter Vol 38 No 3, Doug Plank, criminal law

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