Monday, August 3, 2009

A Fourth Amendment quandary.

A Fourth Amendment hypothetical:

Two men, Bartles and Jaymes, rob a pizza delivery man. One is wearing a mask and another is wearing -- you guessed it! -- a black hoodie. Bartles and Jaymes disappear into the night, only to be tracked down later by magical, Hoodie Man-detecting bloodhounds. Bartles and Jaymes are arrested for the robbery.

At the time of the arrest, a police officer realizes that -- hey! -- Bartles's car is parked two streets away. He takes it upon himself to conduct a warrantless search of Bartles's car, where lo and behold, he finds (gasp!) a mask and black hoodie. Instrumentalities of the crime! A further search of the locked trunk of the sedan reveals a few keys of coke. Score!

Bartles's defense attorney is understandably outraged by the search of the car and moves to suppress the evidence. In an amazing twist of fate, a judge decides to apply the law, and suppress the evidence against Bartles. Without the evidence, the charges are dropped.

Question: May the evidence found in Bartles's car be suppressed as it pertains to Jaymes? For the sake of argument, assume that the items can be linked to Jaymes. The jurisdiction does not have automatic standing.

When approached with this question, my initial reaction was that Jaymes's attorney cannot make it past the threshold inquiry of whether Jaymes has a reasonable expectation of privacy as to the contents of Bartles's car. When I proposed this to my non-lawyer friends, they found this patently offensive: How can the fruits of an egregiously illegal search be used against anyone? A valid question. Still, I could not get past the initial question as to Jaymes's reasonable expectation of privacy.

And then I discussed this with a friend of mine who happens to be a Fourth Amendment Idiot Savant. He suggested that the situation of Bartles and Jaymes could be likened to the area of law regarding guests. If a person invites you to stay in his home. just because you do not own the home does not mean that you give up any expectation of privacy to your belongings in the home. He suggested that by likening the search of the car to search and seizure law regarding guests, a reasonable suppression argument could be made for Jaymes.

Understand that this question pertains to a case a friend of mine is working on, and that I have not actually researched this issue. I'm just throwing it out there to see if anyone has any ideas.