Sunday, July 6, 2014

Supreme Court, 2013-14 Term: Quick Recap (Part 2: criminal cases)

Let's now move to the Court's decisions in criminal cases. As we did with civil rights and liberties decisions in the previous post, we'll take a quick, bare-bones look at some of the most significant cases.

Search & Seizure
Riley v California--Cell Phone Search--[9-0] In the absence of some exigent circumstances, a warrant is required to search the digital data on an arrestee's cell phone.
(My take--agree: A most welcome limitation to the Court's atrocious decisions automatically permitting full warrantless searches incident to arrest, for any offense, regardless how minor, and regardless of any connection to the offense.)

Fernandez v California--Warrantless Home Search--[6-3] A warrantless search is permitted with the consent of any occupant, as long as the occupant who is the target of the investigation--and who had already refused to give permission--is not home.
(My take--disagree: If there actually is some legally sufficient reason to search the home of the non-consenting target, then get a warrant!)

Navarette v California--Auto Stop--[5-4] An anonymous call to 911 that the driver of a described truck ran the caller off the road provided reasonable suspicion for a traffic stop.
(My take--agree: A 911 tip, especially a detailed one about an incident this serious, seems sufficiently reliable to justify a brief stop to investigate.)

Death Penalty
Hall v Florida--Mental Disability--[5-4] Florida's rigid threshold of an IQ test score of 70 is invalid because it creates an unacceptable risk that a mentally disabled person will be executed.
(My take--agree: A single test score without any other consideration seems much too unreliable.)

Abramski v U.S.--Deceptive Purchase--[5-4] Falsely stating on a federal form that a gun purchase is for oneself, when it is actually for another, constitutes a false statement crime even if the other person would be an eligible purchaser.
(My take--agree: Would there even be an issue if this "straw purchase" was not about guns?

Chemical Weapons
Bond v U.S.--Chemical Weapons Treaty--[9-0 / 6-3 on broader meaning] The use of a toxic substance by one person to commit a simple assault against another is not a federal crime under the Chemical Weapons Treaty, but under local law.
(My take--agree: A simple assault is a far cry from the warfare concerns underlying the Chemical Weapons Treaty and Congress's implementation of it should be construed accordingly.)

That's it for part 2 which was supposed to conclude these quick recaps. But I miscalculated. A part 3 is needed to cover decisions otherwise omitted from this series. That's the next post.