July 21, 2019

Search and Seizure Law in Colorado: Update and Overview

Search-SeizureThe Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Since its ratification in 1791, the Fourth Amendment has been examined in myriad fact situations in thousands of cases. Practically every word in the Fourth Amendment has been adjudicated, in cases ranging from the mundane to the insane:

  • Illinois v. Gates, 462 U.S. 213, 238 (1983): The police received an anonymous letter implicating Susan and Lance Gates in a drug trafficking scheme. Police corroborated details of the anonymous letter and were able to obtain a warrant to search the Gates’ home and car. The search was held to be valid even though the informant was anonymous.
  • People v. Leftwich, 869 P.2d 1260 (Colo. 1994): An anonymous note claimed defendant was an active drug dealer, but the investigating officer was unable to corroborate the details of the purported drug deals. This was held so insufficient to support probable cause that the warrant was not saved by the good faith exception, and all evidence was suppressed.
  • Rochin v. California, 342 U.S. 165, 173 (1952): Police forcibly entered defendant’s room and saw him put two capsules into his mouth. They were unable to extract the pills and took the defendant to the hospital, where a doctor forced him to vomit. The Supreme Court held the warrantless conduct “shocks the conscience” and offends a “sense of justice.”
  • People v. Thompson, 820 P.2d 1160, 1164 (Colo. App. 1991): Officers doing surveillance for a drug buy saw defendant swallow something as they approached. They got a warrant for an x-ray, which showed a drug-filled balloon. The court ruled that any intrusion from the x-ray was minimal and since police clearly saw defendant swallow an object, the search was reasonable.
  • United States v. Booker, 728 F.3d 535 (6th Cir. 2013): After a valid arrest, defendant was strip-searched at the police station, and officers saw a string sticking out of his anus. Defendant tried to push it in further, and was transported to the hospital where eventually he was sedated, intubated, and paralyzed, and 5 grams of crack cocaine was retrieved from his rectum. The court held that the search, which was initially lawful, went too far without a warrant.
  • Wilson v. Arkansas, 514 U.S. 917 (1995): While executing a search warrant, officers found the door to defendant’s home open and walked in, unannounced. Defendant argued the search was unreasonable because the officers did not knock and announce their presence. The Supreme Court agreed, reversing the trial court’s order to the contrary and ruling that a search warrant executed without a knock and announce may sometimes be unreasonable.
  • People v. King, 292 P.3d 959, 963 (Colo. App. 2011): Officers executed a valid search warrant for a hotel room and found no drugs, but requested that defendant remove his pants and eventually removed drugs from his anus. The court ruled that even a valid search warrant that specifies a search “on a person” does not authorize a strip search.

These are some of the many examples of issues arising from Fourth Amendment cases as highlighted by Attorney H. Morley Swingle, author of CLE in Colorado’s new book, Search and Seizure Law in Colorado. Swingle will discuss these cases and more at his entertaining program, “Search & Seizure Law in Colorado: Update and Overview,” on Friday, September 18, 2015. Click the links below to register or call (303) 860-0608.

CLE Program: Search & Seizure Law in Colorado: Update and Overview

This CLE presentation will take place Friday, September 18, 2015 at the CLE offices. Click here to register for the live program or click here to register for the webcast.

Can’t make the live program? Order the homestudy here – CD • Video OnDemand • MP3

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