Thursday, April 16, 2009
If Oscar the Grouch were arrested, would the police need a warrant to search his can?
I'm thinking that California v. Carney (Holding: The warrantless search of a mobile home does not violate the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.) indicates "no," though given that his can doesn't have wheels and can't move on its own, it's possible that Chimel v. California would apply.
Really, it comes down to the practical question of how his can seems to contain a near infinite amount of stuff, like Mary Poppins' valise. Is it all within easy reach? Under Chimel, that should be the test. If he really can get to all that stuff easily, then he could get to a concealed firearm and be a danger to the arresting officers so the can should be searched.
What if he were arrested outside the can? Under Vale v. Louisiana, I would say "yes, they would need a warrant." But if his can counts as a MOBILE home, note illustration, then the Carney exception might apply given Thornton v. United States.
Ok, back to work.
Yes, I am studying criminal law today. Why do you ask?
Posted by Chalicechick at 4/16/2009 03:07:00 PM
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Depends on whether the can had terrorist sympathies.
Well, the can's pretty obviously a medical accommodation for Oscar's social anxiety disorder, so it's effectively a wheelchair..
If it's a public trashcan, then there would be no bar to searching it, right? Except that Oscar has been inhabiting the can for decades, in a quite open and -- one could argue -- hostile manner, so does he now lay claim to it via adverse possession?
There was a case a few years back of a guy that was living in an disused trash dumpster. The police arrested him and found pot in the dumpster. His lawyer claimed that, since it was his residence, they needed a warrant, but the court disagreed. (I thought the story was on volokh.com but Google isn't turning it up.)
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