Vol. 1, No. 2 | December 2006

Legal Summaries: Criminal Procedure

by Sara Poole
Legal Specialist
Virginia State Police
E-Mail:  Sara.Poole@vsp.virginia.gov

FOURTH AMENDMENT ISSUES

Standing – Rental Vehicles:

Williams v. Commonwealth, 06 Vap UNP 2217044 (2006)

Deputy Gary observed a vehicle with its interior lights on and witnessed the “passenger rolling what . . . appeared to me to be a marijuana cigarette.” Based on his observations, Deputy Gary performed a traffic stop and he smelled marijuana coming from the vehicle. He asked the driver for her license, which identified her as Twana Davis. She stated the car was rented and produced a Hertz rental agreement that was issued to one Crystal James as the lessee and sole authorized driver. During the stop, subsequent arrest, and seizure, neither Davis nor the defendant offered any information to explain how either had come into possession of the vehicle.  The agreement contained the following language: “No ‘additional authorized operators' without Hertz written approval,” and “WARNING: You must obtain Hertz's prior written approval for any additional authorized operators.”

After the defendant stated that he did not have an ID, Gary asked him to step out of the vehicle.  As he began to exit, “two little red plastic baggies” fell from under his leg onto the floorboard of the vehicle. Gary subsequently arrested the defendant for possession of marijuana. A search of the defendant incident to this arrest produced $2,800 in cash and a brick of cocaine. A subsequent search of the vehicle garnered a half-kilo of heroin, $18,000 in cash, a loaded .357 revolver, and various other drug paraphernalia and residue.

Court held that, in the absence of evidence sufficient to establish a valid possessory interest, neither the driver nor a passenger of a rental vehicle has a reasonable expectation of privacy in that vehicle, where the terms of the rental agreement do not include either as the lessee or an authorized driver.

Suppression of Evidence:

Hudson v. Michigan, 547 US ___ 041360 (2006)

Supreme Court held that violation of the “knock and announce” rule does NOT require suppression of evidence pursuant to the exclusionary rule.  Social costs greatly outweigh any deterrent effect suppression of the evidence would have on police behavior.

Exception to Warrant Requirement – Exigent Circumstances:

Brigham City v. Stuart, 547 U.S. ___ 05502 (2006)

Law enforcement officers, responding to loud party call, entered a yard, saw juveniles drinking, and then saw an altercation in the kitchen between 4 adults and a juvenile, who punched one, causing him to spit blood.  The officers opened the door and announced their presence.  The subjective motivation of the officers is irrelevant.  The gravity of underlying offense and the need to prevent possible harm to the people involved in the altercation are the important factors.  The Supreme Court held that police may enter a home without a warrant when they have an objectively reasonable basis for believing that an occupant is seriously injured or imminently threatened with such injury. 

Reasonable Suspicion to Frisk – Shoe:

Ford v. Comm.,  __ Vap UNP (July 18, 2006)

A police officer made a lawful traffic stop after observing the defendant exit a vehicle and demonstrate difficulty walking, as thought he could not put his foot all the way down into his shoe.  The officer did not violate the defendant’s rights by asking him to take his foot out of his shoe.  The weapon found inside need not be suppressed.

Disclaimer:  The content of the Virginia Police Legal Bulletin does not constitute legal advice, nor does it reflect the opinions or views of the Virginia Police Legal Advisors Committee.