Recent Supreme Court Decisions Affecting 4th & 5th Amendment Rights

The United States Supreme Court has limited a criminal defendant’s ability to fight the pretrial restraint of assets in its decision in Kaley v. United States, 134 S. Ct. 1090 (2014).

In addition, the Supreme Court has held that where one occupant consents to a search of the jointly held property, that is sufficient, regardless of whether another occupant who has objected, was removed by arrest.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on April 08, 2014

In its recent decision, Kaley v. United States, 134 S. Ct. 1090 (2014), the United States Supreme Court has eliminated a criminal defendants right to have a hearing to contest the issue of whether probable cause exists to believe that the defendant committed the crimes charged at a pretrial hearing to contest the legality of the government’s asset seizure under 21 U.S. §853(e)(1).

Under Fernandez, the trial court may only hold a hearing to determine whether there is probable cause that the assets are traceable to the charged offense.

In Kaley, according to court documents, the defendants sought to vacate an order freezing their assets, pretrial, so that they could use the funds to hire a lawyer.

The Supreme Court held that they did not have a constitutional right to challenge the issue of probable cause that they committed the crimes.

In Ms. Lefeber’s opinion this decision represents a nail in the coffin for the ability of defendant’s to fight the pretrial restraint of assets by the government.

Although the Supreme Court, in Kaley, left open the possibility of a pretrial hearing to determine whether the assets are traceable to the criminal activity charged in the Indictment, in Ms. Lefeber’s opinion, trial court’s will be reluctant to release seized assets, pretrial, because the laws of forfeiture are so broad.

In Fernandez v. California, 134 S. Ct. 1126 (2014), the United States Supreme Court held that although police may generally search a jointly occupied premises if one of the occupants consents, there is a narrow exception where consent of one occupant is insufficient if another occupant is present and objects to the search. Georgia v. Randolph, 547 U.S. 103 (2006).

However, the Supreme Court, in Fernandez, held that Randolph does not apply where the objecting occupant is not present when another occupant consents, even if his absence is caused by his arrest after objecting to the search.

Ms. Lefeber states that this decision further erodes the defendant’s rights under the Fourth Amendment, as the police can simply remove an objecting defendant by arresting him/her and the proceed to obtain the consent of an unwary occupant who is unaware of the defendant’s objection.

Hope Lefeber is a federal criminal defense attorney in Philadelphia and New York City with over 30 years experience, recognized by Superlawyers and ranked by the National Trial Lawyers as one of the Top 100 Criminal Defense Lawyers in the United States.

Key areas of practice include defense in business and corporate fraud, mail and wire fraud, money laundering, tax fraud and other white collar crimes, conspiracy and drug offenses.

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