Smith's Criminal Case Compendium

Smith's Criminal Case Compendium

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This compendium includes significant criminal cases by the U.S. Supreme Court & N.C. appellate courts, Nov. 2008 – Present. Selected 4th Circuit cases also are included.

Jessica Smith prepared case summaries Nov. 2008-June 4, 2019; later summaries are prepared by other School staff.

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E.g., 09/22/2021
E.g., 09/22/2021

The trial court erred by concluding that the police had probable cause to conduct a warrantless search of the defendant, a passenger in a stopped vehicle. After detecting an odor of marijuana on the driver’s side of the vehicle, the officers conducted a warrantless search of the vehicle and discovered marijuana in the driver’s side door. However, officers did not detect an odor of marijuana on the vehicle’s passenger side or on the defendant. The court found that none of the other circumstances, including the defendant’s location in an area known for drug activity or his prior criminal history, nervousness, failure to immediately produce identification, or commission of the infraction of possessing an open container of alcohol in a motor vehicle, when considered separately or in combination, amounted to probable cause to search the defendant’s person.

The trial court erred by denying the defendant’s motion to suppress property seized in a warrantless search. After receiving a tip that a person living at a specified address was growing marijuana, officers went to the address and knocked on the front and side doors. After getting no answer, two officers went to the back of the residence. In the backyard they found and seized marijuana plants. The officers were within the curtilage when they viewed the plants, no evidence indicated that the plants were visible from the front of the house or from the road, and a “no trespassing” sign was plainly visible on the side of the house. Even if the officers did not see the sign, it is evidence of the homeowner’s intent that the side and back of the home were not open to the public. There no evidence of a path or anything else to suggest a visitor’s use of the rear door; instead, all visitor traffic appeared to be kept to the front door and traffic to the rear was discouraged by the posted sign. Further, no evidence indicated that the officers had reason to believe that knocking at the back door would produce a response after knocking multiple times at the front and side doors had not. The court concluded that on these facts, “there was no justification for the officers to enter Defendant’s backyard and so their actions were violative of the Fourth Amendment.”

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