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State Court Decisions Interpreting Constitutional Provisions Governing Search and Seizure

The federal Constitution and the Supreme Court cases interpreting it establish the minimum amount of protection that a state court must provide when it is interpreting a section of the Bill of Rights that has been made applicable to the states via the doctrine of incorporation, including instances when a state court is required to interpret and apply the Fourth Amendment. A state court interpreting the search-and-seizure provisions of its own constitution may provide more protection than is afforded by the fed-eral Constitution but not less. Below is a sampling of cases decided in part based on a state court’s interpretation of its own state constitutional provision governing search and seizure.

FLORIDA: Florida courts are constitutionally required to interpret search and seizure issues in conformity with the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution as interpreted by the United States Supreme Court (see State v. Hernandez, 718 So.2d 833 [Fla. App. 1998]).

GEORGIA: A driver’s proceeding through a poorly lit intersection without her headlights on created reasonable suspicion to justify a traffic stop of driver under the state constitution (see State v. Hammang, 549 S.E.2d 440 [Ga. App. 2001]).

IDAHO: The term “exigent circumstances” refers to a catalogue of exceptional or compelling circumstances that allow police to enter, search, seize, and arrest without complying with the warrant requirements of the federal or state constitutions, including unannounced entries to search made pursuant to the state and federal “knock and announce” statutes (see State v. Rauch 586 P.2d 671 [Idaho 1978]).

ILLINOIS: Officers involved in the surveillance of an arranged drug purchase had sufficient probable cause to make an arrest of both the driver and passenger of an unidentified vehicle that was observed during the surveillance (see People v. Ortiz, 823 N.E.2d 1171 [Ill. App. 2005]).

KANSAS: Even though police improperly searched a suspect’s pockets and found drugs, these drugs inevitably would have been discovered. Under the inevitable discovery doctrine, the search was permissible. (see State v. Ingram, 113 P.3d 228 [Kan. 2005]).

LOUISIANA: Warrantless searches and seizures are unreasonable per se unless justified by one of the specific exceptions to warrant requirement of the federal and state constitutions (see State v. Manson, 791 So. 2d 749 [La. App. 2001]).

MICHIGAN: Enhanced search and seizure protection under Michigan’s Constitution is available only if the search or seizure occurs inside the curtilage of the house (see Mich. Const. Art. 1, § 11).

MINNESOTA: The purpose of the exclusionary rule based upon the search and seizure provision of the state constitution is to deter police misconduct, and thus there is no compelling reason to apply a more stringent standard when applying the state exclusionary rule than when applying the federal exclusionary rule (see State v. Martin, 595 N.W.2d 214 [Minn. App. 1999]).

NEW JERSEY: Racial profiling involves a claim of unlawful search and seizure in violation of the state’s constitution (see State v. Velez, 763 A.2d 290 [N.J. Super. A.D. 2000]).

NEW MEXICO: The state constitution allows a warrantless arrest only upon a showing of exigent circumstances (see American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico v. City of Albuquerque, 128 N.M. 315, 992 P.2d 866 (N.M. 1999); NM Const. Art. 2, § 10).

NEW YORK: Liquor retailer had no legitimate expectation of privacy in retail customer sales records maintained by liquor wholesalers with whom the retailer had business dealings, and thus, the retailer lacked standing to challenge, as an unreasonable search and seizure in violation of the New York Constitution, the Department of Taxation and Finance’s use of wholesalers’ sales records to investigate suspected underreporting of sales tax by liquor retailers (see Roebling Liquors Inc. v. Comm’r of Taxation & Finance, 728 N.Y.S.2d 509 [N.Y. App. Div. 2001]).

NORTH CAROLINA: An informant was sufficiently reliable such that his tip could provide probable cause where the informant had more than 14 years of personal dealings with an officer and had led to more than 100 arrests. (see State v. Stanley, 622 S.E.2d 680 [N.C. App. 2005]).

OHIO: An inventory search of a compartment of a lawfully impounded vehicle does not contravene the federal or state constitutions, where the search is administered in good faith and in accordance with reasonable police procedures or established routine (see State v. Mesa, 717 N.E.2d 329 [Ohio 1999]).

SOUTH CAROLINA: A court order violated a defendant’s Fourth Amendment rights by compelling a blood sample. However, other evidence supported the defendant’s conviction for murder and first-degree burglary, and the court determined that the error was harmless (see State v. Baccus, 2005 WL 3620398 (S.C. 2006).

WASHINGTON: Without judicial participation, a municipal court clerk may not order the issuance of an arrest warrant in the absence of an authorizing statute, court rule, or ordinance (see State v. Walker, 999 P.2d 1296 (Wash. App. 2000).

WISCONSIN: Where police officers act in objectively reasonable reliance upon a facially valid search warrant that has been issued by a detached and neutral magistrate, a good-faith exception to the exclusionary rule applies under the state constitution, provided that the state shows the process used in obtaining the warrant included a significant investigation and review by either a police officer trained and knowledgeable in the requirements of probable cause and reasonable suspicion or a knowledgeable government attorney (see State v. Eason, 629 N.W.2d 625 [Wisc. 2001]).

Additional Resources

American Jurisprudence. 2d Series. Thomson/West, 2005.

Criminal Procedure. 4th Edition. Wayne R. LaFave, Jerold H. Israel, and Nancy J.King, Thomson/West, 2004.

Oxford Companion to the Supreme Court. 2d Edition. Hall, Kermit L., James W. Ely, Jr., and Joel B. Grossman eds., Oxford University Press, 2005.

West’s Encyclopedia of American Law. 2d Edition. Thomson/Gale, 2004.

Inside State Court Decisions Interpreting Constitutional Provisions Governing Search and Seizure