In a 6-2 decision, the Supreme Court declined to decide one of the most important questions this term for state and local government: whether Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires police officers to accommodate suspects who are armed, violent, and mentally ill when bringing them into custody. But the Court held that the officers in City and County of San Francisco v. Sheehan were entitled to qualified immunity.

When police officers entered Teresa Sheehan’s room in a group home for persons with mental illness to take her to a hospital for psychiatric care, she threatened to kill them with a knife she held, so they retreated. Before backup arrived, the officers decided to reenter her room to prevent her from gathering more weapons or escaping. Upon reentry, Sheehan still had the knife in her hand and yelled for them to leave. One officer pepper sprayed Sheehan but she refused to drop the knife. The officers then shot her multiple times but she survived.

In a 6-3 decision in Rodriguez v. United States the Supreme Court held that a dog sniff conducted after a completed traffic stop violates the Fourth Amendment. 

Officer Struble pulled over Dennys Rodriguez after he veered onto the shoulder of the highway and jerked back on the road. Officer Struble ran a records check on Rodriguez, then questioned his passenger and ran a records check on the passenger and called for backup, and next wrote Rodriguez a warning ticket. Seven or eight minutes passed between Officer Struble issuing the warning, back up arriving, and Officer Struble’s drug-sniffing dog alerting for drugs.  Rodriguez argued that prolonging the completed traffic stop without reasonable suspicion in order to conduct the dog sniff violated the Fourth Amendment.

Beginning in the mid-2000s numerous states adopted “Jessica’s” laws requiring GPS monitoring of certain sex offenders.  These statutes have been challenged on a number of grounds—including that they violate the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition against unreasonable searches.  Eight states, including North Carolina, monitor for life.             

The Supreme Court ruling that GPS monitoring of certain sex offenders is a Fourth Amendment search doesn’t invalidate these statutes.  But if the lower court—and ultimately the Supreme...

CSG Midwest
In April of last year, Wisconsin lawmakers passed a first-in-the-nation bill with new standards on how local law enforcement must handle investigations that involve the death of a civilian by an on-duty police officer.
The legislation, AB 409, didn’t get much national attention at the time. But a few months later, after high-profile incidents involving the death of a 18-year-old in Ferguson, Mo., and the acquittal of a New York police officer in the death of an unarmed African-American man, Wisconsin’s actions were being held up as a national model.
Recent concerns about officer-related deaths, and the investigations that follow, have resulted in much legislative activity in state capitols in 2015 (see below) — calls for an increased use of police body cameras, for example, and new rules for how violent incidents are handled, investigated and publicly reported.

This act amends Tennessee’s fetal homicide law to allow the prosecution of a pregnant woman for the illegal use of a narcotic drug, if her child is born addicted or harmed by the drugs she took during her pregnancy. The charge of assault is a misdemeanor offense, but if the child is harmed, aggravated assault, with a 15-year maximum prison term, could be charged. That a woman is enrolled in long term drug addiction treatment before the child is born, remains in the program after delivery and successfully completes the program is an affirmative defense under the law. The law is set to expire on July 1, 2016.

With passage of this act, Montana became the first state to require state and local government entities to obtain a probable-cause warrant before remotely engaging personal electronic devices. Agencies may obtain location information in the case of emergencies or if an electronic device is stolen or if an individual gives authorized permission to access their location information.

This act relates to investigations of deaths involving a law enforcement officer. It requires the use of outside investigators in the event of a police-related death of a citizen, and requires reports of custody death investigations to be publicly released if criminal charges are not filed against the officers involved. In addition, officers must also inform victims’ families of their options to pursue additional reviews.

This act requires a provider of wireless telecommunications to provide call location information concerning the telecommunications device of a user to a law enforcement agency in certain circumstances; requires a provider of wireless telecommunications to submit its emergency contact information to the Department of Public Safety; requires the Department to maintain a database of such emergency contact information; authorizes the Department to adopt regulations; and provides other matters properly relating thereto.

State and territorial attorneys general have made it a priority to combat the epidemic of prescription opioid abuse and to protect military service members from predatory lenders. Their efforts include law enforcement operations, state drug monitoring programs and education campaigns. 

As of early 2014, 20 states plus the District of Columbia have passed measures permitting the use of marijuana for medical purposes, and two states—Washington and Colorado—have legalized the use, cultivation and distribution of small amounts of marijuana for all adult users. While the federal prohibition of marijuana remains in effect, a growing number of states are considering and implementing other regulatory models for marijuana. This article discusses these trends and looks to the future of federal-state relations in this area.

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