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State v. Malloy

State v. Malloy, 2021 UT 3 (Lee, J.)

Criminal Law; Fourth Amendment

A police officer approached the defendant as he appeared to be asleep behind the wheel of a car parked in a parking lot. The officer opened the door of the car, then saw illegal contraband. The defendant moved to suppress all evidence the police then seized, contending the officer violated his Fourth Amendment rights by opening the car door without consent. The district court denied the defendant’s motion. The court of appeals affirmed, ruling that the officer was justified in opening the door incident to a lawful traffic stop pursuant to State v. James, 2000 UT 80. The Utah Supreme Court granted certiorari and affirmed, but on different grounds:

  • Although the supreme court concluded James contains “sweeping statements” that have revealed to be “overbroad,” it ruled that exclusion of the evidence was not required in this case because the officer reasonably relied on James in acting.
  • Note: In a “limited” holding, the supreme court “repudiate[d]” the “sweeping conclusions in James about the constitutional insignificance of the identity of the person who causes a door to be opened” and left “for another day the articulation of additional considerations of relevance to the determination of the constitutional reasonableness of any search effected by an officer who opens a car door without consent.”

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