Federal Criminal Defense Attorney, Hope Lefeber, Discusses Recent Third Circuit Decision Permitting Automobile Searches Without A Warrant - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Federal Criminal Defense Attorney, Hope Lefeber, Discusses Recent Third Circuit Decision Permitting Automobile Searches Without A Warrant

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In U.S. v. Donahue, __ F.3d __, 2014 WL 4115949 (3d Cir. August 22, 2014), 3d Circuit Reverses District Courts Suppression of Evidence, Granting Broad Power to Government to Search Automobiles Without a Warrant.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (PRWEB) August 29, 2014

Last week, in U.S. v. Donahue, __ F.3d __, 2014 WL 4115949 (3d Cir. August 22, 2014), the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit reversed a District Courts suppression of evidence. Federal criminal defense lawyer, Hope Lefeber, explains how this case gives the government broad powers to search a car without a search warrant. Interestingly, the case begins with the following observation by the Third Circuit: [i]n light of the automobile exception to the usual search warrant requirement, it is difficult to pick a worse place to conceal evidence of a crime than an automobile.

According to court documents, defendant Donahue was convicted of fraud in the District of New Jersey. But, instead of surrendering to authorities after his conviction, he fled the state. Some time later, he was arrested while driving his sons Ford Mustang in New Mexico. After he was arrested, the government seized his car and conducted various searches of it. Behind the drivers seat, they found a Glock .40 and a magazine. In the trunk, they found a bag containing a Glock semi-automatic. Donahue was charged with failing to surrender and for firearms offenses.

At Donahues trial, the District Court granted Donahues motion to suppress the evidence found in the car, U.S. v. Donahue, 2013 WL 6080192, holding that the government lacked probable cause to conduct the search. Interestingly, the Third Circuit reached the opposite conclusion. As Ms. Lefeber explains, since the facts were not in dispute, the Third Circuit could conduct a plenary review of the District Courts decision. In other words, the Third Circuit was free to completely re-examine the issue and reach a different conclusion, which it did.

The key question on appeal was whether the government had probable cause to search the car without a warrant under the automobile exception to the Fourth Amendment, which allows searches of automobiles, without a warrant, if the officers have probable cause to believe that evidence of a crime will be found in the vehicle. The government claimed that no warrant was needed because various items that were in plain viewsuch as some luggage and mapsgave rise to probable cause that further evidence of Donahues deliberate flight would be found in the car. Donahue claimed that this was insufficient because these items did not suggest that contraband would be found in the car. Because a probable cause analysis isnt limited to the possible finding of contraband, the Third Circuit agreed with the government and ruled that these items did give rise to probable cause that further evidence of Donahues flight would be found. Accordingly, the Third Circuit reversed the District Courts suppression of the search and remanded the case.

    Ms. Lefeber explains that this case further erodes the protection of the Fourth Amendment with respect to vehicle searches. Following the Donahue case, basically every vehicle can be searched because officers will arguably always have probable cause to believe that evidence of a crime will be found in the vehicle of a person that they stop.

Hope Lefeber is a federal criminal defense attorney in Philadelphia. With over 30 years experience, she is recognized by Superlawyers and is ranked by the National Trial Lawyers as one of the top 100 Criminal Defense Lawyers in the United States. Ms. Lefebers 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. Learn more about her at http://www.hopelefeber.com.

For the original version on PRWeb visit: http://www.prweb.com/releases/2014/08/prweb12127903.htm

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