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State Wins a Search and Seizure Appeal

Most appeals of search and seizure evidentiary rulings in criminal cases are appeals by a Defendant after a conviction. However, as these are legal rulings by a trial court, the State has the option of appealing a ruling excluding evidence. In the recent case of State v. Clark, E2009-01795-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn.Crim.App. 10-24-2011), the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals reversed a trial court ruling excluding evidence obtained during the warrantless search of the vehicle of a suspect in the vandalism of a red light camera.

State Wins a Search and Seizure Appeal

Most appeals of search and seizure evidentiary rulings in criminal cases are appeals by a Defendant after a conviction. However, as these are legal rulings by a trial court, the State has the option of appealing a ruling excluding evidence. In the recent case of State v. Clark, E2009-01795-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn.Crim.App. 10-24-2011), the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals reversed a trial court ruling excluding evidence obtained during the warrantless search of the vehicle of a suspect in the vandalism of a red light camera.

Defense Wins a Vehicle Search and Seizure Case

In the recent search and seizure case of State v. Donaldson, M2010-0069-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn.Crim.App. 9-15-2011), the State of Tennessee, appealing a trial court ruling excluding evidence, asserted that a police officer has unrestricted authority to order a motorist to exit a vehicle at any point during a valid traffic stop. The Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals disagrees.

Defense Wins a Vehicle Search and Seizure Case

In the recent search and seizure case of State v. Donaldson, M2010-0069-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn.Crim.App. 9-15-2011), the State of Tennessee, appealing a trial court ruling excluding evidence, asserted that a police officer has unrestricted authority to order a motorist to exit a vehicle at any point during a valid traffic stop. The Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals disagrees.

Defense Win in a Search and Seizure Case

Appellate challenges to trial court rulings on admissibility of evidence in criminal cases, including questions of whether a particular search and seizure was reasonable, do not often result in reversals. Appellate courts must rely on a trial court's findings of fact and determine whether the trial court's application of law to those facts was reversible error. The recent case of of State v. Mejia, E2010-00745-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn.Crim.App. 7-27- 2011) did result in the reversal of the trial court ruling and dismissal of charges against the Defendant in that case.

Defense Win in a Search and Seizure Case

Appellate challenges to trial court rulings on admissibility of evidence in criminal cases, including questions of whether a particular search and seizure was reasonable, do not often result in reversals. Appellate courts must rely on a trial court's findings of fact and determine whether the trial court's application of law to those facts was reversible error. The recent case of of State v. Mejia, E2010-00745-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn.Crim.App. 7-27- 2011) did result in the reversal of the trial court ruling and dismissal of charges against the Defendant in that case.

Sometimes It's Just Bad Luck (Search and Seizure)

The recent Sixth Circuit case of U.S. v. Godfrey, 10-4240 (6th Cir. 6-28-2011) is an interesting example of the "good faith" exception to the exclusionary rule. Generally, evidence obtained from a warrantless search and seizure, not covered by a recognized exception to the warrant requirement, is inadmissible against an accused in a criminal case. The exclusionary rule exists to deter authorities from obtaining evidence by illegal means. But when authorities are acting in good faith in obtaining the evidence, excluding it has less value and the evidence may be admitted, under federal law.(Tennessee courts have not previously adopted the federal "good faith" exception. But the Tennessee State Legislature has just passed such an exception in the 2011 session.)

Does Your Vehicle's Color Match Its Registration?

In a recent search and seizure case from the Sixth Circuit, a divided panel concluded that an investigatory stop of a vehicle in a "high crime area" was permissible where the vehicle color did not match the color listed on the registration.

6th Circuit: Sawed-Off Shotgun is Intrinsically Suspicious

Having a visible sawed-off shotgun in your vehicle is enough to trigger a warrantless search and seizure. In the recent 6th Circuit Court of Appeals case of U.S. v. Carmack, 09-5819 (6th Cir. 6-7-2011), the Defendant triggered a federal investigation after he sent a counterfeit postal money order to a company that sells law enforcement items. Federal investigators obtained a warrant to search his home for items related to the creation and use of counterfeit postal money orders. On the way into the home, a partially covered sawed-off shotgun was observed in a vehicle parked outside.

How to Refuse an Implied Consent Blood Test

Under Tennessee DUI law, anyone who drives a motor vehicle in this state is deemed to consent to testing to determine the alcohol or drug content of the person's blood. Tennessee Code Annotated 55-10-406. This is often referred to as the "implied consent law." Before directing such a test, a law enforcement officer must 1) have reasonable grounds to believe the person was driving under the influence; and 2) inform the person of the consequences of refusal. The law allows you to refuse the testing, subject to a penalty for doing so. The penalty is license suspension. If your license is already suspended due to a vehicular homicide offense or DUI, the penalty includes a fine and mandatory incarceration.

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