Week1

Instructions

Week 1 Project: Case Analysis

Two officers were patrolling a high-crime area of a town known for its high incidence of drug dealing. They noticed a man standing by a car speaking to the driver and passenger. He handed them an object and walked away.

According to the officers, when the driver and his passenger spotted the police, they got out of the car quickly and began walking away while glancing back at the officers nervously. The officers stopped the two men and asked them a few questions. During questioning, the officers detected what they believed was the smell of marijuana on the men.

The officers then performed a pat-down search and one of them noticed a bulge in the pocket of the driver’s jacket. The bulge felt like a bag of pills, so the officer reached into the man’s jacket and pulled out what was actually a bag of marijuana. The officers arrested the driver and searched the car. They found more marijuana under both seats of the car. They then arrested the passenger.

  • Was the stop of the two men by the officers legal with reference to the case of Illinois v. Gates (1983)? Why?
  • Was the search of the two men legal with reference to the case Minnesota v. Dickerson (1993)? Why?
  • Was the seizure of the marijuana from the driver a violation of the protection guaranteed under the Fourth Amendment? Why?
  • Was the officers’ search of the car legal? Why?
  • Was the arrest of the passenger legal? Why?

Present your analysis in the form of a Microsoft Word document. Name your document SU_MCJ6410_W1_A3_LastName_FirstInitial.doc.

 

Answer

Analysis:

  1. Stop of the Two Men by the Officers: The stop of the two men by the officers was likely legal based on the case of Illinois v. Gates (1983). In this case, the Supreme Court established the “totality of the circumstances” test for evaluating the legality of a stop and search. Under this test, the officers’ decision to stop the men is determined by whether they had a reasonable suspicion that criminal activity was occurring.

In this scenario, the officers were patrolling a high-crime area known for drug dealing, and they observed a suspicious exchange between the man and the car occupants. Additionally, the driver and passenger exhibited nervous behavior upon spotting the police. These circumstances could collectively create reasonable suspicion of criminal activity, justifying the officers’ stop and questioning of the two men.

  1. Search of the Two Men: The search of the two men may not be legal based on the case of Minnesota v. Dickerson (1993). In this case, the Supreme Court ruled that if during a stop, the police feel an object whose identity is not immediately apparent and it is not clear whether the object is a weapon, they cannot manipulate the object without a warrant or the suspect’s consent.

In this scenario, the officers detected what they believed was the smell of marijuana during questioning. However, the detection of the smell alone may not be sufficient to conduct a search without a warrant or the suspects’ consent. If the bulge in the driver’s jacket pocket was not immediately identifiable as a weapon, the officers may have violated the Fourth Amendment by reaching into the pocket without proper justification.

  1. Seizure of Marijuana from the Driver: The seizure of the marijuana from the driver might be considered a violation of the Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable searches and seizures. If the officers’ initial search of the driver’s pocket was unlawful based on Minnesota v. Dickerson (1993), then the subsequent seizure of the bag of marijuana would be considered “fruit of the poisonous tree.” Any evidence obtained directly or indirectly as a result of an unlawful search is generally deemed inadmissible in court.
  2. Search of the Car: The officers’ search of the car was likely legal if they had probable cause to believe that the car contained contraband or evidence of a crime. The detection of marijuana on the two men during the stop, along with their suspicious behavior and the initial discovery of marijuana from the driver’s pocket, could collectively establish probable cause to search the vehicle for additional contraband. Under the Fourth Amendment, warrantless searches are permitted if there is probable cause.
  3. Arrest of the Passenger: The arrest of the passenger was likely legal if the officers found marijuana under both seats of the car during the search. Based on the Fourth Amendment, if the officers have probable cause to believe that a person committed a crime, they can make an arrest without a warrant.

 

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