Articles Posted in Constitution – Bill of Rights

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Jose Luis Morales appealed his conviction and 15 year sentence for one count of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon in violation of 18 U.S.C. 922(g)(1). He was arrested after Miami Dade Police Officers conducted a search of the home where Morales lived and found a Rossi .38 caliber revolver and a .22 caliber pistol in the closet of Morales’ bedroom. Morales lived in the house with his girlfriend, their two children, and his girlfriend’s mother. The search took place after the police approached the house while investigating drug activity in the area. Their focus was drawn to Morales and while Morales was outside of his house speaking with officers another officer approached the house and spoke to the Morales’s girlfriend’s mother. She gave consent to a search of the house and a K-9 alerted to the area of the closet in Morales’s bedroom where the firearms were found.

On his appeal Morales argued the Miami federal court erred in denying his motion to suppress the evidence seized in the search of his bedroom, claiming that the mother’s consent was not voluntary. He also argued that even if her consent was voluntary, his Fourth Amendment rights were violated because he was a physically present co-occupant who was intentionally denied an opportunity to refuse entry to the officers and to refuse their request to search.

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Touset appealed his conviction for three counts of receiving child pornography, transporting and shipping child pornography and possessing a computer and computer storage devise contain child pornography.  He was arrested after his arrival on an international flight at the Atlanta Georgia airport, when a Customs and Border Protection agent inspected his luggage and found two iPhones, a camera two laptops, two external hard drives, and two tablets. The agent manually inspected the iPhones and the camera, found no child pornography and returned those devises to Touset.

But the agency detained the remaining electronic devices. A forensic search revealed child pornography on the two laptops and the two external drives. With that information agents obtained and executed a search warrant for Touset’s home in Marietta Georgia which turned up evidence showing Touset purchased thousands of images of child pornography, having sent more than $55,000 to the Philippines for pornographic pictures, videos, and webcam sessions. In some webcam sessions he instructed prepubescent girls to display and manipulate their genitals. He also created an excel spreadsheet that documented the names ages and birthdates of those young girls as well as his notes about them.

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The issue here is whether a police officer seizing a cell phone from someone recording an incident violates the Fourth Amendment. In this civil rights appeal, the Martin County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Beatty claiming he was entitled to qualified immunity for seizing the plaintiff’s iPhone after from Crocker after he took photos and videos of a car accident crash scene from where he stood on the interstate grass median. The district court denied his motion for summary judgment and he took this appeal.

Crocker stopped while driving on Interstate 95 in Martin County, Florida when he observed an overturned SUV. Soon after he stopped, emergency personnel arrived but he remained in the interstate median about fifty feet from the SUV.  Crocker then took out his cell phone and proceeded to take photos and videos of the scene that included images of empty beer bottles, the overturned vehicle, and firemen. About thirty seconds after Crocker started using his camera, Beatty walked over to him, reached out from behind him without warning or explanation and took the iPhone out of his hand. When asked by Beatty why he was on the scene Crocker explained that he had stopped to assister before first responders had arrived. Beatty told the plaintiff to leave and the plaintiff agreed to but wanted his cell phone back. Beatty replied that the photos and video on the phone were evidence of the state and the plaintiff would need to drive to the nearest weigh station to wait for instruction about the return of his phone after the evidence could be obtained from it.

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In this civil rights action Montanez sued the Volusia County Sheriff’s deputies for the warrantless entries into the plaintiff’s house, the deputies appeal the district court’s denial of their summary judgment motions for a dismissal. In their challenge they claim that the brief searches were justified by exigent circumstances.   The warrantless searches here arose when a deputy driving his unmarked car through a neighborhood that had a rash of daytime robberies saw a man behind a house who appeared to be looking around nervously while talking on the cell phone. He saw a second man approach the first man and begin huddling with the first man. The officer was convinced they were planning a break-in of the house.

Officer called for backup and when backup arrived they approached the men and handcuffed them. One of the deputies, Raible, entered the back door. Without crossing the threshold he leaned into the doorway and announced he was with the sheriff’s office and directed anyone in the house to come out.

After searching the two individuals they found two kitchen knives they believed were used to pry open the doors after having seen what they believed were fresh marks on the door jam.   When additional officers arrived they decided to enter the home a second time to look for additional perpetrators or potential victims. The second entry was the first into the homes interior and which the officers described as a sweep, which lasted 4 minutes. During the second sweep the officers saw in plain view what they believe to be marijuana and drug paraphernalia.

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Defendants Maxi and Bland appealed their convictions for conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute a controlled substance, possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance, possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. Their charges followed their arrest at 132 N.E. 64th Street in Miami and the subsequent search incident to arrest at the property. Subsequently a, search warrant was issued and wiretaps were authorized.

Defendant Maxi challenged the search and seizure of drugs from the apartment that took place before the search warrant was issued. The trial court denied the motion and Maxi appealed. As to the standing issue the court found he did have standing to challenge the search because he rented the apartment and had a reasonable expectation of privacy in the duplex.

The next challenge raised concerning the search was that the police illegally entered the curtilage of the duplex when 10 officers surrounded the building at night one with his gun drawn. The government responded that the entry was permissible under the “knock and talk” Rule. The court rejected the knock and talk argument because the rule implies that the police have an owner’s implied permission to approach a home and this was not the case here where. the officers here breached the curtilage of the duplex by many going through a gate in the fence and four or five approaching the door and the rest taking up tactical positions around the exterior. But the constitutional violation did not result in the production of any evidence and there was no evidence to suggest that anything would have turned out differently if a proper knock and talk have been done.   The court also upheld the district court’s finding that Maxi had opened the door voluntarily.

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In U.S. v. Johnson the court of appeals found an officer conducted an unconstitutional search and seizure when he removed a round of ammunition from the defendant’s pocket after conducting a pat down of the defendant who was a burglary suspect.  The facts show the Opa-Locka, Florida, Police Department received a 911 call about a potential burglary in progress at a multifamily duplex.  Behind the duplex was a fence that separated the duplex from the adjacent property.  The 911 caller described a black male wearing a white shirt trying to get through the window of a neighbor’s house.

Soon after officers arrived, the defendant was seen coming from the back of the complex through an alley.  He fit the description of a black male wearing a white shirt,   He was ordered to the ground and handcuffed and detained until they could figure things out.  Because of the nature of the call and the high crime nature of the area, the officer conducted a pat down of Mr. Johnson for officer safety.  The officer felt a nylon piece of material and then underneath it he felt a hard-like, oval-shaped object which led him to believe it was ammunition.  He removed it thinking that there might be a weapon nearby or another person in the apartment that may come out with “something.”  It was a black nylon pistol holster and one round of .380 caliber ammunition.

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In this case Hernando Vergara appeals the denial of his motion to suppress evidence found on two cell phones that he carried upon returning to Tampa, Florida on a cruise from Cozumel, Mexico. The search took place in Tampa where he entered customs. Vergara had already been on the list of “lookouts” by the Customs and Border Protection officer because of a prior conviction for possession of child pornography. An individual placed on this list is subjected to secondary screen at the border, which involves additional questioning and searching.

In the secondary screening the agent found two cell phones and initially the search a few apps nothing of interest was found until the agent came upon a video which depicted topless females he believed were minors. Another agent handling criminal investigations concluded the website distributed child pornography, though the video did not meet the statutory definition of child pornography. Because the agent did not have the capability to forensically analyze the phone at the port of entry, the agent seized the phone. The data extracted from the phone revealed more than 100 images and videos of child pornography on the phone.

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The Eleventh Circuit rejected Austin Gates’ federal civil rights claim against three City of Atlanta Police officers for arresting him without probable cause during a protest in downtown Atlanta. Gates claimed the arrest was in violation of the Fourth and First Amendments of the Constitution as well as various Georgia state court laws. Gates participated in a march protesting a grand jury’s decision not to file charges in the Ferguson, Missouri police-shooting. During the protest he was given a “V for Vendetta” mask by another protester. The mask was a stylized image of the Guy Fawkes character from the movie “V for Vendetta” and designed to cover the entire face. He and other protesters wore the same masks to express his disagreement with the grand jury’s decision and to maintain anonymity during the protest. At some point during the protest Defendant police chief Whitmire ordered the protesters to remove their masks multiple times over a loudspeaker and warned that any mask-wearing protesters would be arrested. After the warning, Whitmore issued orders to arrest any protesters wearing masks and the plaintiff was arrested. When asked why he was being arrested, the defendant officer did not immediately respond and after conferring with other officers, he was told the arrest was for wearing a mask. Gates followed with this complaint against the City and the officers pursuant to section 1983.

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This is an appeal by the estate of Shaw who was killed by a Selma Alabama police officer after the district courted granted a summary judgment in favor of the defendants. Shaw’s estate filed a lawsuit against the City of Selma, the police chief and the police officer for excessive force and false arrest under 1983 as well as several state law tort claims. Because the court found that Shaw posed there a threat of physical harm at the time he was shot, the appellate court upheld the dismissal.

Here is how the facts unfolded. The Selma Police received an emergency call from a Church’s Chicken restaurant about an incident involving a 74-year-old mentally disturbed man who attempted to enter the restaurant but was turned away because he had apparently there a few days earlier armed with a knife. When officers arrived, he was spotted at a nearby laundromat and the events were recorded on the officer’s body camera. There Shaw picked up an axe. The officer drew his weapon and ordered him to put down the axe. As Shaw left premises and walked toward the Church’s restaurant the officers followed him. At one point Shaw turned toward the officer shouting at the officer to “Shoot it”. When Shaw was less than five feet away moving toward him with axe in hand and still yelling at the officer to shoot it, the officer fired at Shaw and killed him.

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In this appeal Plaintiff Raymond Berthiaume sued Lieutenant David Smith of the Key West Police Department and the City of Key West. In his lawsuit he claimed he was falsely arrested, and claimed he was the victim of excessive force, false imprisonment, battery, and malicious prosecution at the hands of the officer who arrested him during an incident that took place during the Fantasy Fest Parade events in Key West.

The facts stem from an altercation between two gay men who formerly had been partners. Both men attended the Fantasy Fest parade with friends after which they went to a gay bar. Berthiaume was not ready to leave the bar when Jimenez was, so Jimenez waited by his car for a short time but returned to the bar to find Jimenez still there. Berthiaume led Jimenez out of the bar with his hand on Jimenez’s upper arm. Jimenez took the car keys from Berthiaume and ran down an adjacent alleyway. Berthiaume chased after Jimenez to retrieve his keys. Several police officer patrolling the activities observed the activities between the men and believed that they were witnessing a fight or altercation between the two men. Officer Smith ran toward the alley to intervene and he pushed Berthiaume on the shoulder to stop him from pursuing Jimenez causing him to fall and damage his wrist and jaw. Jimenez explained they were former partners and were trying to get back to together. Despite Jimenez’s unwillingness to press charges against Bethiaume, Smith arrested him and charged him with domestic battery.

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