Articles Posted in Warrantless Search

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Language barriers frequently arise in every day life. While apps and websites that provide quick translations to and from English and other languages are convenient, they are not suitable for all purposes. In a recent case heard in the United States District Court of the District of Kansas, U.S. v. Omar Cruz-Zamora, the court ruled that Google translate was insufficient for obtaining proper consent from a non-English speaking suspect prior to searching the suspect’s vehicle. The court held the language barriers between the suspect and arresting officers were not overcome by Google translate, and therefore the consent to search a vehicle was not given freely and intelligently and was invalid. As such, the search of the car was unconstitutional and the evidence against the suspect was suppressed. While the ruling in Omar Cruz-Zamora does not have precedential value in Illinois, it may be viewed as persuasive if the issue of adequate translation arises in Illinois DUI cases.Car

The suspect in Omar Cruz-Zamora was stopped for a traffic violation. Under the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution individuals are protected against unreasonable search and seizure. As such, since the officers did not have a warrant, they were required to make sure the suspect understood he could refuse to allow them to search the vehicle and obtain the suspect’s consent to search the vehicle.  The suspect spoke very limited English and could not understand the officers’ questions. The officers did not know they had access to a live human translator and used Google translate to advise the suspect of his rights and obtain his consent. The translations provided did not accurately communicate the information the officers were trying to convey and there was no evidence the suspect understood his right to refuse to allow his vehicle to be searched or the purposes for which his consent was requested. The suspect ultimately consented to the search, and upon searching the vehicle the officers found illicit drugs and arrested the suspect.

At the trial, the suspect testified he was confused as to what the officers were asking and did not know he had the right to refuse to allow them to search the vehicle. Translators called upon to assess the accuracy of Google translate testified it often provided a literal but nonsensical translation, and therefore was not a reliable translation tool. The suspect argued that any evidence obtained during the search was obtained without his consent and should be suppressed. Upon reviewing the evidence, the court found it was clear the suspect did not understand what the officers were asking when he consented to the search. Further, the court found the good-faith exception the exclusionary rule of evidence obtained via unlawful searches did not apply because it was unreasonable for the officers to rely on Google translate. As such, the court granted the suspect’s motion to suppress.

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Impaired drivers are a hazard of the road and cause thousands of fatal collisions each year. While alcohol has been the leading cause of impaired driving for decades, drugs recently surpassed alcohol as the leading cause of impairment in collisions involving an impaired driver. The increase in drug related collisions is likely due to several factors, including the opioid epidemic and legalization of marijuana. While many drivers are impaired due to the use of illicit drugs, drivers who are using legally prescribed medications still face the risk of impairment if they are unfamiliar with the side effects of their medication.blood test

Presently, there is no national standard for testing a driver suspected of DUI for opioids, marijuana or other drugs, and police officers often struggle with recognizing the signs a driver is impaired due to drugs. Under the current law, Illinois DUI suspects can be subjected to testing of their blood, urine or breath if impairment is suspected. The currently available drug tests, which utilize a suspect’s blood and urine, can be costly and take a long time to administer, which may allow for the suspect’s body to eliminate some or all of the drug. As such, police departments have been searching for technology that would allow for quick, easy, and accurate testing of whether a suspect has ingested any prescribed or illicit drugs that would cause impairment, similar to the way a Breathalyzer test detects alcohol.

In the near future, the Police Department of Carol Stream Illinois will begin testing newly developed technology by administering drug tests via a mouth swab, which will allow them to test for opioids, marijuana, and amphetamines. The Carol Stream Police Department appears to be the first police department in Illinois to begin using driver drug tests. The tests not only give a positive result if the suspect has drugs in his or her system, but will provide measurements of the amount of drugs present. The Carol Stream police plan to conduct field tests to determine the accuracy of the mouth swab tests, by asking DUI suspects who submit to a blood test to submit to the mouth swab as well, so the results of both tests can be compared.

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One of the many protections afforded individuals by the United States Constitution is the Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable search and seizure without a search warrant. There are certain exceptions to the shield provided by the Fourth Amendment, one of which is the automobile exception. Under the automobile exception, a police officer may search an automobile without a warrant as long as he or she has probable cause to believe there is evidence or contraband in the vehicle. While the automobile exception limits the protections provided by the Fourth Amendment, it is important to know the scope of authority police officers are afforded by the exception. If the automobile exception was unjustly applied to obtain evidence in your Illinois DUI case, you may be able to prevent the evidence from being used against you.gavel

Recently, in Collins v. Virginia, the United States Supreme Court held that the automobile exception to the Fourth Amendment does not permit a warrantless entry of the curtilage of a home, and in doing so specifically declined to extend the exception to allow searches outside of the automobile itself. In Collins, police believed the suspect was in possession of a stolen motorcycle after an officer observed the motorcycle under a tarp in the suspect’s driveway. The officer then proceeded to walk up the driveway, uncover the motorcycle, and run the license plate number to confirm it was stolen. When the suspect returned to his home, he was arrested. During his trial, the suspect filed a motion to suppress the evidence, arguing that, in performing the search without a warrant, the officer trespassed on the curtilage of the suspect’s house. The trial court denied the suspect’s motion and he was convicted of receiving stolen property. On appeal, the Virginia Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court ruling, holding exigent circumstances justified the officer entering the property and uncovering the motorcycle to view the license plate. On further appeal, the State Supreme Court affirmed the trial court ruling on different grounds, holding that the officer was permitted to conduct the warrantless search by the automobile exception.

The case was then appealed to the Supreme Court of the United States. In ruling on the case, the Court noted that officers may search an automobile without a warrant as long as they have probable cause, but it declined to expand the scope of the automobile exception. The Court explained curtilage, which is defined as the area surrounding and associated with a house, is thought of as part of the house for purposes of the Fourth Amendment, and, as such, a search of the curtilage constitutes a Fourth Amendment search and is unreasonable without a warrant. The Court rejected Virginia’s argument that the automobile exception permitted a warrantless search of an automobile at any time, in any place, stating that to rule otherwise would defeat the Fourth Amendment protection that extends to a house and its curtilage, ultimately creating a much broader exception than was intended. The Court held that, contrary to the argument set forth by Virginia, the automobile exception does not afford officers the right to search any space outside of the automobile. The Court further noted that allowing warrantless searches of vehicles parked in the curtilage violated both the sanctity of the curtilage and the Fourth Amendment interest in the vehicle. Lastly, the Court declined to adopt Virginia’s reasoning that the automobile exception should allow warrantless searches of the curtilage only, and not the house associated with the curtilage, noting this would lead to both confusion and diminished protection for individuals who could not afford built-in garages.

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Last month, a Florida appellate court held that police need to obtain a warrant before downloading information recorded in a car’s “black box.” Specifically, the Fourth District Court of Appeal in West Palm Beach concluded that there is a reasonable expectation of privacy in the information stored in the black box, and downloading that information without a warrant absent exigent circumstances violates the Fourth Amendment.

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In the fall of 2013, the defendant was involved in a high speed accident that resulted in the death of his passenger. Afterwards, his vehicle was impounded. Roughly a week after the crash, law enforcement downloaded the information stored on the car’s black box without first obtaining a warrant. A car’s black box records information regarding numerous issues, such as speed, steering, and braking.

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