Supreme Court takes two criminal cases

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] on Monday granted certiorari [order list, PDF] in two cases. In Tolentino v. New York [docket], the court will determine whether the exclusionary rule [Cornell LII backgrounder] prohibits police from using a defendant's driving record compiled by the state's Department of Motor Vehicles obtained after illegally stopping the defendant. The Court of Appeals of New York [official website] held [opinion, PDF] that the exclusionary rule does not bar police from using evidence that a driver had his license suspended 10 previous times after police allegedly illegally stopped the vehicle. Relying heavily on INS v. Lopez Mendoza [opinion text], the court reasoned that since a defendant's identity is never subject to exclusion, information obtained only through learning his identity, such as his driving record, is not subject to exclusion either.

In Fowler v. United States [docket], the court will determine the federal nexus required to convict a defendant under 18 USC § 1512(a)(1)(C) [text], which prohibits killing or attempting to kill a person with the intent to "prevent the communication by any person to a law enforcement officer or judge of the United States of information relating to the commission or possible commission of a Federal offense or a violation of conditions of probation, parole, or release pending judicial proceedings." The US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit [official website] ruled [opinion, PDF] that Charles Fowler violated the statute by killing a police officer who had stopped Fowler and his accomplices who were planning a bank robbery in a stolen vehicle containing drugs and who had recently committed an interstate robbery. Fowler protested that prosecutors failed to establish that it was likely the officer would transfer information to federal investigators or that it was likely that a federal investigation would be opened. The court held, however, that prosecutors need only establish that the defendant killed the victim to prevent the communication of a possible federal offense and that they had met that burden.

Also Monday, the court refused to dismiss the writ of certiorari in Kentucky v. King [docket, cert. petition, PDF] as improvidently granted. The court will determine when lawful police action impermissibly "creates" exigent circumstances that preclude warrantless arrest. The case was appealed from the Supreme Court of Kentucky [official website] to determine which of the five tests currently being used by US circuit courts should be used to determine this issue. The Kentucky court held [opinion, PDF] that the officers were not in hot pursuit of a fleeing criminal and, therefore, the exigent circumstances used to validate the warrantless arrest were self-created. The court originally granted certiorari [JURIST report] in September, and the respondent had sought a dismissal because the charges against him were dropped since review was granted.

 

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