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.
The Constitution gives us the right to confront our accusers in a criminal case. In practical terms, this means that witnesses offering testimonial evidence against us in a criminal case must appear in court and be subject to cross-examination. The rule is the subject of much legal argument and a number of exceptions (such as whether the evidence is testimonial, whether the witness is available, and whether there has been a previous opportunity to cross-examine the witness). In the recent case of Bullcoming v. new Mexico, 09-10876 (U.S. 6-23-2011), the U.S. Supreme Court, reversing the Supreme Court of New Mexico, held that a forensic lab report in a DWI case was subject to challenge under the Confrontation Clause and inadmissible when the lab technician who created the report did not testify.
Those of us who have ever watched crime drama on television know that we have the right to remain silent and the right to counsel, and the police have to tell us that before interrogating us about a crime, right? And when we say we want a lawyer or don't want to answer, they have to stop the interrogation? Yes ... if we are in custody. If we are not in custody, they can ask whatever they want and don't have to tell us anything.
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.
In the summer of 2010, the Tennessee Supreme Court released an opinion in the case of Marcus Ward v. State, which held that it was constitutional error when a trial court failed to advise a defendant pleading guilty about the lifetime community supervision requirement which is a mandatory consequence of conviction of many sex crimes. The Tennessee Supreme Court has recently also added that failure of counsel to advise a client of the lifetime community supervision requirement is deficient performance of counsel. Calvert v. State, M 2008-00426-SC-R11-PC (Tenn. 4-28-2011).
In recent years, Tennessee's subjective and draconian application of the sexual exploitation of a minor criminal statute has resulted in some chilling outcomes. The statute was intended to combat child pornography. But it has also been used like a heavy spiked club to incarcerate people even for photographing appropriately dressed minors engaging in age-appropriate activity. It was getting so bad that we could have to worry about being arrested for having a camera in a public park where there may be kids around. Finally, a panel of the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals is restoring some sanity to the application of this criminal obscenity statute.
... Or you may go to jail for exhibition of obscene materials to a minor. In the recent Tennessee case of State v. Cross, M2009-01179-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn.Crim.App. 5-25-2011), the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals upheld a man's convictions on three counts of exhibition of obscene materials to a minor, for watching the 1991 Sam Pillsbury directed movie, Zandalee, starring Nicholas Cage, Erika Anderson, Marisa Tomei, and Judge Reinhold.
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.