The Resurrection of the “Trespass” Element of Fourth Amendment Law

Recently, in United States v. Jones, the Supreme Court ruled that the attaching of a GPS tracking device to a suspect’s car without his knowledge and monitoring of the vehicle’s movements violated the suspect’s Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable search and seizure.  See generally 132 S.Ct. 945 (2012).  In so doing, the Court resurrected an idea relating to Fourth Amendment law that had been dormant for almost 50 years – the idea of common-law trespass as a test for violations of the amendment.

Specifically, police officers obtained a warrant to put the tracking device on a car registered to Jones’ wife.  Jones, 132 S.Ct. at 948.  Officers then placed the GPS tracker on the undercarriage of the car while it was parked in a public parking lot.  Id.  The officers then monitored the car’s movements for 28 days.  Id.  Eventually, the Government indicted Jones on charges of (among other things) conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute cocaine.  Id.  Jones moved to suppress the evidence from the GPS device.  

Continue ReadingThe Resurrection of the “Trespass” Element of Fourth Amendment Law

Difficulties Arising Out of No-Merit Reports

Under Wisconsin Statute 809.32(1), an attorney representing a criminally convicted client on appeal must file a no-merit report if he or she:

concludes that a direct appeal on behalf of the [client] would be frivolous and without any arguable merit within the meaning of Anders v. California, 386 U.S. 738 (1967), and the [client] requests that a no-merit report be filed or declines to consent to have the attorney close the file without further representation by the attorney.

A no-merit report is essentially as it sounds, a report to the Court of Appeals stating that the client has no arguable case.  Once a no-merit report is filed, the client may choose to respond.  If the client does not respond, or does and the court finds that there are no meritorious claims, the court will affirm the conviction.

This situation, however, brings to light an interesting predicament for convicted individuals. 

Continue ReadingDifficulties Arising Out of No-Merit Reports

A Comparison of an Article 32 Investigation with a Federal Grand Jury (And Why the Former Prevails)

My recent military law class helped me to understand the judicial system employed by our armed forces. Many similarities exist between the judicial system in the armed forces and the Article III courts, but differences stand out as well. One such difference is that between an Article 32 investigation and its civilian counterpart, a federal grand jury. An Article 32 investigation provides more rights and opportunities for the accused than a federal grand jury. With that in mind, and an eye on overarching judicial policy, I concluded that the Article 32 investigation is better.

The comparison of the two judicial systems stems from the fact that both are designed to avoid trials on baseless charges. Beyond the similarity of this broad rationale for each process, however, little is in common between the two. An Article 32 investigation results in a non-binding recommendation, is limited to the charges on the charge sheet, and provides that the accused and counsel may be present. Conversely, a grand jury session’s indictment is final, allows any charges to be found, and neither the accused nor his or her counsel is allowed at the session.

Continue ReadingA Comparison of an Article 32 Investigation with a Federal Grand Jury (And Why the Former Prevails)