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In the case, Carty was a passenger of a vehicle operated by another individual. The vehicle was stopped for speeding, and the driver of the vehicle was asked to sign a form of consent to search the vehicle. During the search, the officer did a pat down of both Carty and the driver, at which time cocaine was found on Carty. The signed consent to search did not include any reference to a pat down, but both parties agreed to a pat down when requested by the officer for "reasons of safety." Carty moved to have the evidence withheld, since the search was unconstitutional (332 N.J. Super. 200, 2002).
The Supreme Court of New Jersey found that even thought the consent documents were strongly worded in an effort to inform of a right to refuse search, the documents were not sufficient to uphold the Constitutional requirement. The form states:
The individual has knowingly given consent to search
The individual has been advised and understands the right to refuse the search
The individual has been advised that an individual can withdraw consent at any time.
This form, however, was determined to fail to properly inform of a right to refuse, based on a study that showed ninety-five percent of motorists signed the consent form when asked, indicating a lack of knowledge such consent was voluntary. The court also found that even if consent had been voluntary, such a search was not warranted, and thus, was unconstitutional (332 N.J. Super. 200, 2002).
Other states have had similar issues regarding a defendant's right to refuse consent to search a vehicle. In Knowles v. Iowa in 1998, the defendant was stopped for speeding and issued a citation. The officer then conducted a full car search, without consent, and discovered marijuana and paraphernalia, and arrested Knowles. The defense argued the evidence discovered during the search was obtained in violation of the Fourth Amendment right without consent, noting that the prosecution's reliance on the case of U.S. v. Robinson in 1973 was not valid. In that case, the Supreme Court held that a search by officers of Robinson's home was valid even without a warrant or consent, since Robinson was under arrest at the time. Knowles, however, was not placed under arrest until following the search and seizure, thus, according to the defense, rendering the reliance on Robinson invalid (No. 97-7597, 1998).
In its decision, the Court ruled that, unlike in the Robinson case, the officer in the Knowles case had no reason to search the vehicle. Iowa law allows the search of a vehicle on a citation issuance if there is probable cause for such a search. In this case, however, the Court noted there was no probable cause, and since the defendant was not given a right to refuse, any evidence obtained during the search was inadmissible (No. 97-7597, 1998).
Not all case law, however, supports such strong resistance to illegal search and seizure. In Illinois v. Caballes in 2005, an Illinois officer stopped a vehicle for speeding, and radioed in. A second trooper with a narcotics dog responded to the scene, and led the dog around the defendant's vehicle while the first officer wrote the ticket. The dog alerted officers to the trunk, and upon inspection, the officers found marijuana. The defendant was arrested, but sought to suppress the seized evidence, since the evidence was found during an illegal search of the vehicle to which he did not give consent. At the original trial, the Court determined that the drug dog's alert to the officers was enough probable cause to allow search without consent (543 U.S. 405, 2005).
However, as is shown in the above case, even various Courts cannot consistently decide on the constitutionality of search and seizure laws. The Illinois Supreme Court in the case above decided that evidence produced following the narcotic dog's search was inadmissible. In the decision, the Court noted that there were no specific facts in the case that suggested drug use in the defendant prior to the dog's findings. Thus, there was not probable cause to search the vehicle, and would thus require consent. Since no consent was given, any evidence located was found in violation of the Fourth Amendment right (543 U.S. 405, 2005).
Some states have written into law regulations pertaining to search and seizure, and regulations regarding consent, particularly when applied to vehicle searches. In Connecticut, the criminal process laws note the requirement to obtain a search warrant, pursuant to probable cause, in the event any home or business is to be searched. These search warrants must be specific, and issued by a District judge. In Connecticut, probable cause is defined as the belief that the items or area to be searched are more than likely to be connected with a criminal offense, and that the items being sought reside in the area described fully in the search warrant (LexisNexis Martindale-Hubbell, 2006).
However, even in Connecticut, the judicial and criminal system recognizes specific areas in which search warrants are not required. Search warrants are not required in Connecticut if the search is of body or personal belongings of an individual being arrested, in cases where the evidence to be found during a search is in danger of destruction, or if the evidence to be located is in plain view of an officer. In these cases, a search warrant is not needed (LexisNexis Martindale-Hubbell, 2006).
However, Connecticut law also makes clear the guidelines for vehicle searches and consent to search laws. In terms of vehicle searches, Connecticut law does not require either probable cause or a search warrant for a search inside a vehicle. These searches are limited to open spaces of the car, including any area easily viewed when in the vehicle. For locked areas such as glove compartments, personal baggage, and trucks, probable cause is required (LexisNexis Martindale-Hubbell, 2006).
Additionally Connecticut law notes that consent searches are legal in any case in which the defendant gives written or oral consent to a search. If an individual consents to a search of their person or vehicle, any evidence located during the search is admissible, provided the consent is given without coercion, and in recognition that such a search is voluntary. Officers are required to inform drivers of their right to refuse a search (LexisNexis Martindale-Hubbell, 2006).
Connecticut has also recently clarified the law revolving around consent to search issues involving third-party individuals. In Connecticut v. Brunetti in 2005, the Court overturned a verdict based on third-party consent to search. In the case, the mother of the defendant refused to consent to a search, whereas the father of he defendant agreed to the search.
The Court decided that, in cases were an objection to a search is issued, no other person at the scene can supercede the objection (SC 16788, 2005). While this case did not specifically concern the consent to search a vehicle, it is relevant to the issue, in that it clarifies Connecticut's view on consent to search issues.
Clearly, the right to protection from unreasonable search and seizure is not a simple issue, particularly when dealing with the search of vehicles. When combined with confusion over consent to search regulations, and the differing opinions of various Courts surround consent to search laws, it is often difficult to know if one has the right to refuse a search. While this issue will continue to be debated among Courts for many years, it is clear that several states, and the Federal Courts, are taking a harder stance against illegal search and seizure. Until such time as there are consistent laws regarding search and seizure of vehicles and the right to consent, however, motorists will continue to be confused, and the rights of the citizens the Fourth Amendment attempts to protect will continue to be in jeopardy.
Amos v. United States. 255 U.S. 313. Supreme Ct. Of the U.S. 1921.
Bumper v. North Carolina. 391 U.S. 543. Supreme Ct. Of the U.S. 1968.
Carroll v. United States. 267 U.S. 132. Supreme Ct. Of the U.S. 1925.
Connecticut v. Brunetti. SC 16788. Connecticut Supreme Ct. Of the U.S. 2005.
FindLaw. "Consent Searches." Fourth Amendment. 2006. 2 Dec 2006. http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/data/constitution/amendment04/04.html#1.
FindLaw. "History." Fourth Amendment. 2006. 2 Dec 2006. http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/data/constitution/amendment04/01.html#3.
FindLaw. "Scope of the Amendment." Fourth Amendment. 2006. 2 Dec 2006. http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/data/constitution/amendment04/01.html#4.
Florida v. Jimeno. 500 U.S. 248. Supreme Ct. Of the U.S. 1991.
Illinois v. Caballes. 543 U.S. 405. Illinois Supreme Ct. Of the U.S. 2005.
Johnson v. United States. 333 U.S. 10, 13. Supreme Ct. Of the U.S. 1948.
Knowles v. Iowa. No. 97-7597. Iowa Supreme Ct. Of the U.S. 1998.
LexisNexis Martindale-Hubbell. Criminal Process in Connecticut. 2006. 2 Dec…[continue]
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