Articles Posted in Property Seizures

The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution protects citizens from unreasonable searches and seizures. In general, this requires police officers, or other government officials, to obtain a warrant prior to conducting a search. However, over the years, courts have carved out several exceptions to the warrant requirement, based on the reasoning that not every search is “unreasonable,” and not everything that would seem to be a search is legally recognized as a search. Whether a search related to a Michigan airport crime is valid can depend on a number of circumstances.

Most airport searches are considered administrative searches, and they are not subject to the warrant requirement. An administrative search is one that is carried out not based on suspicion of any criminal activity but instead based on some regulatory or statutory scheme. For example, the policy that all people crossing into the United States are subject to random search, regardless of any individualized suspicion, is considered an administrative search. This same logic applies to airports because courts have held that an airport is the equivalent of a border crossing. This means that when a TSA agent asks to search a passenger’s bag, they can generally do so without any individualized suspicion that the passenger was engaged in criminal activity.

Not all airport searches are valid. For years, TSA agents could search electronic devices as a part of an administrative search; however, courts have recently held that an officer cannot necessarily search all electronic devices pursuant to an administrative search. Similarly, if an airport search exceeds its permissible scope, the search may be invalid. This is an important point because the regulatory framework that allows for airport searches absent individualized suspicion is based on safety concerns, rather than on a general concern about preventing all illegal activity. Thus, courts have struck down searches that were designed to search for contraband other than weapons and explosives.

Though you may not pay close attention to headlines in the legal world, you may want to take note of a recent opinion from the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS). The landmark case of Carpenter v. United States, which arose out of events and criminal allegations in Michigan, has significant implications for anyone who is charged in a crime based upon cell phone data. In sum, the finding expands your privacy rights because it limits the type of information police can obtain without a warrant. You should entrust your case with a knowledgeable Michigan criminal defense lawyer, but some important information may help you understand your rights.

Case Synopsis

Telecommunications providers capture and archive data of customers for billing and other legitimate business purposes. A user’s phone bounces off the closest tower and delivers the time, date, and location information back to the company. These details can be very useful for law enforcement investigating the whereabouts of a person who is a suspect in a crime. Cell phone location data is exactly what Detroit, MI state and federal agents used to identify and arrest Mr. Carpenter. He was eventually convicted and lost on appeal, at which point he and his defense attorneys took the case to SCOTUS.

The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution prohibits unlawful search and seizure. There are many ways in which a search and seizure can be unlawful, from the illegal search of a person to the unlawful seizure of property from an alleged criminal suspect’s home or motor vehicle. One of the more contentious issues concerning the Fourth Amendment and its protection is the practice of “stop and frisk.” In 2013, The New York Times published an article about the prevalence of racial discrimination in “stop and frisk” procedures and programs. Despite the fact that a New York court found the NYPD’s stop and frisk program to be racially discriminatory, that same year the Detroit police chief asserted that stop and frisk procedures would not change in Michigan.

What is a stop and frisk, and when is it unlawful?

Fourth Amendment Protects Against Unlawful Search and Seizure

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