Search and Seizure

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Case is a lesson in search warrants, Pair's marijuana charges dropped

United States
The Fort Collins Coloradoan (CO)

Racial Profiling: It's Getting Worse in Missouri

Black drivers are nearly 50% more likely than whites to be stopped by Missouri police and twice as likely to be searched, even though police are less likely to find contraband than with white drivers, according to the state's annual report on racial profiling. Released May 31, the report also found that the problem is getting worse.
enter at peril of profiling
The report showed that blacks were pulled over at rates 49% greater than their presence in the driving age population. The numbers were 34% in 2004 and 42% in 2005.

"As I have said in previous years, the disparity index for African-American and Hispanic drivers continues to be of concern," Attorney General Jay Nixon said in his written analysis of the report. "Law-abiding drivers have the right to travel throughout Missouri without the fear that they will be stopped based solely on their race or ethnicity."

White drivers were stopped at a rate slightly below their percentage of the population, while Hispanic drivers were stopped at a right slightly above it. Asians, American Indians, and people of mixed race were all stopped at rates well below what would be expected.

Blacks and Hispanics were twice as likely to be searched as whites, even though police were most likely to find contraband in searches of vehicles driven by white drivers. Police found contraband in 14.4% of searches of Hispanic drivers, 18.7% of black drivers, and 22.2% of white drivers.

Despite lower levels of successful searches among black and Hispanic drivers, they were still twice as likely to be arrested during a traffic stop than white drivers. Five percent of white drivers pulled over ended up going to jail, while slightly more than 10% of black and Hispanic drivers did.

The report was based on an analysis of more than 1.6 million traffic stops, 128,000 searches, and 94,000 arrests made by state and local police in Missouri in 2006.

Search and Seizure: California Federal Court Throws Out Warrantless Cell Phone Searches

A federal district court judge in Northern California ruled May 23 that police need a search warrant to peruse the contents of cell phones seized from people being arrested. While police may typically search people at the time of arrest and at booking, the judge held that searching a cell phone requires a search warrant.

The case arose from a December 2004 medical marijuana dispensary raid by the San Francisco Police Department in which five people were arrested. Three of them--Edward Park, Brian Ly and David Lee -- were taken to a local police station, where SFPD Police Inspector David Martinovich admitted searching one man's phone and ordering another police inspector to search the other two men's phones.

"I believed that a search of the cellular telephones at the police station during the booking process was permissible as a booking search," Martinovich said in court documents. He admitted perusing the cell phone and writing down the contents of its address book.

The three men filed a motion to suppress the evidence, saying the warrantless cell phone search violated the Fourth Amendment. US District Judge Susan Illston agreed.

"This court finds... that for purposes of Fourth Amendment analysis, cellular phones should be considered 'possessions within an arrestee's immediate control' and not part of 'the person,'" wrote Illston in her opinion. "This is so because modern cellular phones have the capacity for storing immense amounts of private information."

Illston expressed concern at violations of people's right to privacy. "Unlike pagers or address books, modern cell phones record incoming and outgoing calls, and can also contain address books, calendars, voice and text messages, e-mail, video and pictures. Individuals can store highly personal information on their cell phones, and can record their most private thoughts and conversations on their cell phones through e-mail and text, voice and instant messages," she noted.

"Any contrary holding could have far-ranging consequences," Illston continued. "At the hearing, the government asserted that, although the officers here limited their searches to the phones' address books, the officers could have searched any information -- such as e-mails or messages -- stored in the cell phones."

The government failed to show any purpose other than furthering criminal investigations, Illston concluded. "The court finds that the government has not met its burden to show, by a preponderance of the evidence, that it is standard police practice to search the contents of a cellular phone as part of the booking process," she wrote. "Indeed, the government has not articulated any reason why it is necessary to search the contents of a cell phone in order to fulfill any of the legitimate governmental interests served by a booking search: namely, to deter theft of arrestees' property and false claims of theft by arrestees, and to identify contraband and other items."

As Illston noted in her opinion, there is no controlling opinion on these issues in either the 9th US Court of Appeals or the US Supreme Court. In one similar federal case, the presiding judge found for the government. These issues are likely to be further adjudicated in the federal appeals courts.

Search and Seizure: Minnesota Supreme Court Okays Drug Dog Sniff Outside Apartment Door

The Minnesota Supreme Court ruled May 24 that police need only articulable suspicion -- not the higher standard of probable cause -- to be able to use a drug sniffing dog to sniff the outside door of a person's residence. The 5-2 decision sparked a bitter dissent.
drug dog
The ruling came in Minnesota v. Davis, in which Burnsville police were informed by maintenance workers in an apartment complex that they thought they saw marijuana grow lights and that Evans would not let them in the apartment to fix a water leak. Based on that information, police brought a drug dog to the location, and the dog reacted outside the apartment door. Police then used the maintenance workers' information, the drug dog alert, and Davis's past criminal record to obtain a search warrant, which resulted in the finding of various items of contraband and three drug charges against Davis.

At trial, Davis moved to suppress the evidence, arguing that police needed probable cause to sic a drug dog on his apartment door because the drug dog sniff of his door exterior actually amounted to a "search" of his apartment, thus requiring probable cause. He lost at the trial court, which concluded that police needed only articulable suspicion and had met that standard. The Minnesota Court of Appeals affirmed that decision, and now the state Supreme Court has reaffirmed it.

While the state constitution requires the courts to balance individuals' privacy interest against the public interest in effective law enforcement, the state Supreme Court held that the intrusion into Davis's privacy was so minimal as to not require the higher standard of probable cause. The only intrusion into Davis's privacy occurred because the dog could sniff what the public could not. "This intrusion, however, is minimal," Justice Gildea wrote for the majority.

"When we balance the minimal intrusion on [the defendant's] privacy interests inside his residence against the governmental interest in the use of narcotics-detection dogs as an investigative tool to combat drug crime, we conclude that the police needed a reasonable, articulable suspicion to walk a narcotics-detection dog down the common hallway outside [the defendant's] apartment," Gildea wrote. The report from maintenance workers rose to the level of articulable suspicion, the opinion added.

Justice Alan Page, joined by Justice Helen Meyer, strongly dissented from the majority's opinion. "This case marks a significant departure from our constitutional jurisprudence because it is the first time the court has authorized the search of a private residence based on anything less than probable cause in the absence of exigent circumstances," Page wrote. "It is a departure that takes us down a road that erodes Fourth Amendment protections in one's home. That is a road I am unwilling to go down." Unfortunately, Page was in the minority.

Big Island rejects federal funds for war on pot

United States
Honolulu Star-Bulletin

Drug war has come under fire

Chicago Tribune

Officers don’t have a problem with medical marijuana

United States
Winona Daily News (MN)

Minorities Must be Criminals, Otherwise There Wouldn't Be So Many of 'Em in Prison

New DOJ data confirming that minorities receive harsher treatment than whites during traffic stops came as no surprise to us. Last week I discussed the study, warning that DOJ's poor reporting could embolden racial profiling apologists, despite the obvious disparities revealed in the data. Unfortunately, I was right.

Profiling skeptic Steve Chapman now exploits DOJ's report in a widely published editorial that's as sloppy as it is wrong:
Why would black drivers be arrested more often? Maybe because African-Americans commit crimes at a far higher rate and are convicted of felonies at a far higher rate. In 2005, for instance, blacks were nearly seven times more likely to be in prison than whites.
This is textbook circular reasoning of the sort that will earn you an F in Philosophy 101. By Chapman's logic, police could stop investigating white people entirely and we'd soon see that minorities commit 100% of all crimes.

By relying on the argument that increased searches of minorities are justified by their criminality, Chapman exposes his own unfamiliarity with the data he's discussing. The previous DOJ report, released in 2005, addresses this issue directly:
Likelihood of search finding criminal evidence

Searches of black drivers or their vehicles were less likely to find criminal evidence (3.3%) than searches of white drivers (14.5%), and somewhat less likely than searches of Hispanic drivers (13%).
This data comes straight from a report referenced by Chapman, yet he insists that "a motorist of felonious habits is also more likely to have illegal guns or drugs on board," and "the average black driver is statistically more likely to be a criminal than the average white driver."

The great irony here is that Chapman offers his made up statements about the heightened criminality of minorities while arguing that racial profiling doesn’t exist. His premise fundamentally endorses profiling and any officer who agrees with him is highly vulnerable to the exact behavior Chapman denies. It is really just priceless to find gratuitous racial stereotypes in an article about how the days of gratuitous racial stereotyping are behind us.
United States

Constitutional Challenge of Canada's Medical Cannabis Program

Contact: Philippe Lucas, tel: 250-884-9821, E: or Kirk Tousaw, tel: 604-836-1420, E: In May of 2004, the Vancouver Island Therapeutic Cannabis Research Institute (VITCRI), a research and cultivation facility overseen by the Vancouver Island Compassion Society, was raided by the West Shore RCMP. Mat Beren and Michael Swallow were charged with multiple counts of cannabis production, and over 900 plants were seized and destroyed, temporarily leaving the critically and chronically ill members of the VICS without a safe source of medicine. The ensuing court case and Constitutional challenge - which is taking place from May 9th-18th in B.C. Supreme Court, 850 Burdett Avenue - will establish that the federal medical cannabis program is violating the constitutional rights of critically and chronically ill Canadians by a) unnecessarily restricting access to the program; b) supplying an inadequate source of cannabis; and c) instituting arbitrary limitations on production and distribution. "This ineffective, onerous and expensive program has long been an impediment to safe access" says Philippe Lucas, a medical cannabis user and founder of the VICS, "and clearly isn't protecting Canada's sickest citizens from arrest for their use of medical cannabis". The VICS legal team consists of Mr. John Conroy QC from Abbotsford, BC, and Mr. Kirk Tousaw. Witnesses for the defense include Senator Pierre-Claude Nolin (chair of the Senate Special Committee on Illegal Drugs), Dr. Robert Melamede (Biology professor at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs). "We look forward to challenging the constitutionality of these regulations and demonstrating to the court that Health Canada is not meeting its obligations to Canada's critically and chronically ill", says Mr. Tousaw. If successful, this challenge will make the legal medical use of cannabis more accessible, and potentially legalize the community-based distribution of cannabis. A similar challenge in Ontario from 2003 resulted with the courts striking down the prohibition on the recreational adult use of cannabis in Ontario, thereby legalizing the personal use of cannabis for over 18 months. This case may lead to a similar outcome in B.C.

Military Casualties in Mexico’s Anti-Drug War

Mexidata (CA)

Drug War Issues

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