Attorney Peter Calo Explains Landmark
Supreme Court DecisionsThis page is dedicated to providing information and links to both United States Supreme Court decisions and Rhode Island Supreme Court decisions that may affect you. First, it is necessary to understand what is the role of each Supreme Court. Along with the Federal Constitution, each state has its own constitution, which are virtually identical to the Federal Constitution. Each state may interpret its own constitution differently as long as that interpretation does not conflict with the Federal Constitution. The United States Supreme Court has the ultimate say in Federal Constitutional issues. The United States Supreme Court is the highest court in the country. The Rhode Island Supreme Court is the highest court in the State of Rhode Island. The United States Supreme Court decides cases based on the Federal Constitution and the Rhode Island Supreme decides cases based on both the Rhode Island Constitution and the Federal Constitution. However, the U.S. Supreme Court can overrule the R.I. Supreme Court on Federal Constitution issues, but not on R.I. Constitution issues, unless the R.I. Constitutional issue decided limits freedom and liberties that the U.S. Supreme Court has provided. States are allowed to provide more freedom and liberties to its citizens than what the U.S. Supreme Court may rule on a certain issue. A state, however, cannot take away any freedom or liberties that the U.S. Supreme Court has provided. For example, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that it does not violate the Federal Constitution for police to conduct DUI roadblocks. Conversely, the R.I. Supreme Court has ruled that such roadblocks violate the R.I. Constitution. Because this gives Rhode Island residents more freedom and liberties, the R.I. Supreme Court’s ruling is perfectly valid. The opposite would not be true. If the U.S. Supreme Court had ruled that DUI roadblocks violate the Federal Constitution then the R.I. Supreme Court would not be able to hold that such roadblocks do not violate the R.I. Constitution. That is because that ruling would be taking away freedom and liberties that the U.S. Supreme Court has provided in a ruling. For the most part, however, the R.I. Supreme Court follows the U.S. Supreme Court’s rulings.
The Fourth AmendmentThe Fourth Amendment of the Federal Constitution deals specifically with seizures and searches. It is what prohibits the police from stopping, arresting and or searching someone without cause. The Fourth Amendment is the “playbook” that guides police officers. The text of the Fourth Amendment is rather short and to the point: “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” The U.S. Supreme Court has interpreted this to mean that all searches and seizures by the police must be reasonable. And in order for a search or seizure to be reasonable, the police must have a warrant based on probable cause. Keep in mind, however, that there are many exceptions to the rule that police need a warrant based on probable cause for every search and seizure. Such exceptions include exigent circumstances, motor vehicle searches, search incident to an arrest, plain view, stop and detain, and pat-downs to name just a few. These exceptions to the warrant and/or probable cause requirement were delineated by the Court because they are reasonable. Therefore, even if the police search or seize someone or something without a warrant based on probable cause, the search or seizure may still be valid if it is based on one of the well established exceptions. That is why you need to an attorney like Peter Calo to defend you. His law enforcement experience gives him an advantage like no other attorney. His strong background and knowledge on search and seizure laws enables him to give you the best possible representation. Contact him today.
Stop and Frisk: Terry v. OhioThe Fourth Amendment, as interpreted by the U.S. Supreme Court, mandates that the level of suspicion that the police need in order to seize or search a person is probable cause. Terry v. Ohio was a landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision that for the first time allowed the police to seize a person and search the person on less than probable cause. In Terry, the Court ruled that police may detain (seize) a person if the police have reasonable suspicion to believe that the person is involved in criminal activity. Further, the Court rule that once police have someone detained, the police may pat-down the person for weapons if the police have reasonable suspicion to believe the person is armed and or dangerous. Reasonable suspicion is a much lower standard of proof than probable cause, thus making it easier for police to stop and frisk citizens. In order for a police officer to conduct a stop and frisk, the two-prong test must be met. First, the officer must reasonably suspect the person of criminal activity. Second, in order to conduct the frisk, the officer must have separate reasonable suspicion that the person is armed and or dangerous. Therefore, police may not frisk or pat-down every person they detain. Only when the officer can articulate that the person was armed and dangerous may the officer then conduct a frisk of the person.
Motor Vehicle Searches: The Carroll DoctrineMotor vehicle searches are one of the more common searches that police conduct. The U.S. Supreme Court, in Caroll v. U.S., departed from the warrant requirement for searching a motor vehicle. The Court ruled that police may search a motor vehicle without a search warrant, provided that the police have probable cause to believe that there is evidence of a crime or contraband in the vehicle. This is known as the Carroll Doctrine. Readily Mobile This does not mean that police can search every motor vehicle. The Carroll Doctrine only applies if the vehicle is “readily mobile.” The Court allowed this exception to the warrant requirement because vehicles can be easily moved if police had to stop and get a warrant before searching. Therefore, if a vehicle is not readily mobile, then the police would need a search warrant to conduct a search. Scope of the Search: Elephant in a Breadbox Further, the police may search anywhere in that vehicle where the item may be contained. This includes the trunk, glove box, and any containers in the vehicle, including those of passengers. The only requirement for the scope of the search is the so-called “elephant in a breadbox” rule. In other words, the police cannot search where it is physically impossible for the item to be. Rhode Island Adopts the Carroll Doctrine Prior to 1992, the State of Rhode Island did not follow the Carroll Doctrine. It was one of those rare instances where the R.I. Supreme Court went against the U.S. Supreme Court and afforded R.I. Citizens more constitutional protection. The R.I. Supreme Court ruled that police searching a vehicle without a warrant violates the R.I. Constitution. However, in 1992, the R.I. Supreme Court reversed itself in State v. Werner, and adopted the Carroll Doctrine. Marijuana and the Carroll Doctrine Many states are now considering either decriminalizing or legalizing recreational use of marijuana (usually an ounce or less). Click here for a link on Rhode Island’s Marijuana Laws. Because of this trend, there is a debate on how these new laws would affect the Carroll Doctrine. Prior to this trend, however, the odor of burnt marijuana was enough probable cause for police to search a vehicle. Jurisdictions are now split as to whether or not the Carroll Doctrine applies when an officer smells burnt marijuana in a vehicle. For example, in Massachusetts, that State Supreme Court ruled in Commonwealth v. Cruz that the odor of burnt marijuana is not enough probable cause for the police to search a vehicle. Conversely, in the State of Oregon, it has been ruled that the odor of burnt marijuana is enough probable cause for the police to search a vehicle (See State v. Smalley). The issue has not been decided yet by the U.S. Supreme Court nor the R.I. Supreme Court. Because the decriminalization of marijuana is relatively new, the Carroll Doctrine is expected to be challenged on this matter sooner or later. Attorney Peter Calo, with his background and experience, can provide you with the best possible defense if you are cited with possession of marijuana. Contact him for a free consultation.
The Right to Remain Silent: MirandaIn 1966, the United States Supreme Court decided Miranda v. Arizona and forever changed the way police may interrogate a suspect. The Court decided that police interrogations are inherently coercive and if a confession is coerced, it cannot be reliable. In order to protect citizens from making a coerced confession the police must advise someone they want to interrogate in custody of certain rights. These rights are known as the Miranda Warnings. In general, if someone is a suspect in a crime, it is better not to talk to the police without an attorney present. If the police want to speak to you about a crime, contact Attorney Peter Calo to protect you and your rights. The Miranda Warnings Here is what the Supreme Court stated in the Miranda decision: “The person in custody must, prior to interrogation, be clearly informed that he/she has the right to remain silent, and that anything the person says will be used against that person in court; the person must be clearly informed that he/she has the right to consult with an attorney and to have that attorney present during questioning, and that, if he/she is indigent, an attorney will be provided at no cost to represent him/her“ Here is typically how the Police will read the Warnings:
- You have the right to remain silent
- Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law
- You have the right to consult an attorney before speaking to the police and to have an attorney present during questioning now or in the future
- If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you before any questioning, if you wish