Dr. Chris Totten, Assoc. Prof. of Criminal Justice (Law) and Director of the Master of Science in Criminal Justice (MSCJ) program, and Mr. Michael De Leo, current MSCJ student, recently co-authored an Article in the Criminal Law Bulletin ("CLB"), a higher-ranked, peer reviewed journal. The Article, entitled "Interpreting Heien v. North Carolina: A Content Analysis of Significant Federal Appellate Court Cases,” explains, evaluates and synthesizes all federal appellate court decisions and select federal district court opinions providing significant treatment to Heien, a recent, landmark United States Supreme Court case in the police traffic stop context. The Article also explores various jurisprudential and policy repercussions, including ones related to police conduct and Fourth Amendment privacy. The citation is: Totten, C.D. & De Leo, M. (2017). Interpreting Heien v. North Carolina: A Content Analysis of Significant Federal Appellate Court Cases. Criminal Law Bulletin, 53, 1202 – 1233. The Article appears in Volume 53, Issue Number 6 (Nov./ Dec.) of the CLB. CLB currently ranks third (3rd) among thirteen (13) peer-edited, English-language journals in the field of criminal law and criminal procedure. The Article abstract is as follows ---
In 2014, in Heien v. North Carolina, the United States Supreme Court extended the allowable margin of error for law enforcement officers under the Fourth Amendment regarding traffic stops. After Heien, reasonable mistakes of law by police can support reasonable suspicion for a traffic stop. In light of this landmark case, which has the potential to substantially impact police conduct, Fourth Amendment privacy and the development of the law more generally, a content analysis study was conducted of all federal appellate court decisions providing significant treatment to Heien. In addition, selected federal district court decisions providing significant interpretation to Heien were evaluated. The study found that while the majority of the federal appellate cases involved police traffic stops, one case applied the Heien rule and rationale to justify an arrest by police. Importantly, a majority of the federal appellate courts also found that in order for any legal error by police to be reasonable, the underlying law the officer is applying must be ambiguous. However, one court of appeals ignored this rule, and determined that an officer can commit a reasonable mistake of law even when confronted with an underlying law that is unambiguous. Finally, federal district courts analyzed in this study extended Heien to other law enforcement contexts apart from a traffic stop, including the arrest and plain view seizure contexts. Overall, the Article explores and analyzes the various jurisprudential and policy implications arising from the interpretive cases, including implications for law enforcement and Fourth Amendment privacy.
Posted: January 9, 2018