Read the vignette and respond to the provided questions.
One spring afternoon a police officer was dispatched to the residence of several university students, who were hosting a keg party for about 20 guests. They reported that three unknown men (two white, one African American) entered the home, had a few beers, and quickly left. Soon thereafter, a party guest also left, and discovered that the stereo had been taken from his car, parked in the back yard. A description of the men and their vehicle was given to the officer, who soon (within 20 minutes and a mile from the crime scene) observed a vehicle and three men, all of whom matched the description that was given. The officer stopped the vehicle, informed the dispatcher of the stop and location, and approached the vehicle.
- Are exigent circumstances and probable cause sufficient for the officer to search the vehicle without a warrant or the men’s consent? If you believe not, how do you propose the three men be handled while a warrant is being sought from a judge?
- Assume the officer asks the vehicle’s driver for permission to search the vehicle, and consent is given; what is the officer’s next move? Instead, assume the driver of the vehicle refuses to give the officer permission to search the vehicle; what action(s) do you believe the officer can then legally take?
- Assume the officer, with or without a warrant, locates the stolen stereo equipment inside the vehicle under the driver’s seat. Can the officer then arrest only the vehicle’s driver, or should all other occupants be arrested as well?
- Following the arrest of one or more of the occupants, can they then be searched?
- What other issues arise for the officer (e.g., his or her safety) once an arrest is made of one or more of the occupants?