Criminal Procedure Midterm

Respond fully in essay form to the question below.  Make sure to save time for organization and polish. 

An anonymous tipster called the Goldbergia Police Department (GPD) and told detectives the following:  “There is a white Subaru Hatchback driving down Highway 45 that is filled with glow-cocaine, a new kind of street drug that glows in the dark and sets off a black light detector.  I don’t want to disclose my identity, but I have given reliable tips in the past – including a tip that lead to the capture and arrest of Martin Mondale, a mid-level drug dealer in Goldbergia.  The owner of the Hatchback lives at 20 Green Lane, and her house is filled with guns and money.”

The GPD decided to walk up to 20 Green Lane and knock on the door.  No one answered.  As police were about to walk away, they saw a large vase sitting in an open window filled with stacks of cash, estimated at $5,000.

The police then found the Hatchback further down Highway 45 and shone a BlackLight3000 on the vehicle.  The inside of the vehicle illuminated with many white spots, leading the police to believe that glow-cocaine was inside the vehicle.  The police pulled over the vehicle and searched the entire vehicle, trunk, and backpacks inside the car.  Inside, the police found glow-cocaine and $100,000 in cash.

Ultimately, the driver and owner of the home at 20 Green Lane, Ferica, was arrested for distributing glow-cocaine.  At her trial, she seeks to exclude the evidence found in the car.  Will her motion to suppress be successful?


Answer Rubric:

The knock at 20 Green Lane was not a search.  Police are permitted to knock and talk.

The sighting of the cash vase was exposed to the public and therefore not a search.  The plain view doctrine does not apply because police are not in a position to lawfully seize the cash.


The first possible activity to trigger Fourth Amendment scrutiny is the shining of the black light on the Hatchback.    Courts may consider this to be a search, especially if Kyllo is extended to cars.  Kyllo held that any technology, which is not in common use, used to detect information about the interior of the home is a search, although Kyllo turned on the sanctity of the home.   Because there is a reduced expectation of privacy in cars, Kyllo might not extend to cars.   This is not a binary search because, like in Kyllo – where heat was measured — black lights measure glowing substances, and the BlackLight3000 is presumably not in common use.   If Kyllo is extended to cars, this will be a search.

If the use of the BlackLight3000 is a search, it may be supported by probable cause.   The anonymous tipster’s tip was quite specific about the details of the glow-cocaine operation.   Although the tip did not provide a basis for information, the tip was somewhat corroborated by the finding of a large amount of cash in a vase in a window (which was not a search).   The tipster also provided information about his own reliability, although that may not be specific enough to demonstrate that the tipster actually provided reliable information in the past and police did not investigate the tipster’s identity.  

Police do not need a warrant to use the BlackLight3000 because of the automobile exception to the warrant requirement.

The pulling over of the vehicle was a valid seizure, if the previous steps were reasonable or not searches.  

(There are two searches of the car, the Black Light use and the search.  Do not mix them up.  They occur at different times and thus have different probable cause determinations.)

The search of the vehicle is now based on valid probable cause, if the use of the BlackLight3000 was not a search, because the evidence discovered by the BlackLight3000, in conjunction with everything above, provides probable cause to believe there is glow-cocaine in the vehicle.

A warrant is not needed to search the car because of the automobile exception.

Police searching a vehicle may search all containers in which there is probable cause to believe evidence of illegal activity exists.

Whether the evidence will be excluded depends upon whether the use of the BlackLight3000 is a search, and, if so, if it was reasonable.  If it was an unreasonable search, the evidence stems from an illegal use of sense-enhancing technology.  If it was not a search, or if there was sufficient probable cause, the evidence in the car will not be excluded.