Published on: Tuesday, April 22, 2014
Yesterday, the Supreme Court granted cert in an ACCA case, Johnson v. United States (No. 13-7120) and a traffic stop case, Heien v. North Carolina (13-604).  In addition, earlier today the Court issued an opinion in another traffic stop case, Navarette v. California (12-9490).   

In Johnson, the question presented is whether mere possession of a short-barreled shotgun should be treated as a violent felony under the Armed Career Criminal Act. The Eighth Circuit had ruled that the prior offense qualified as a violent felony under ACCA's residual clause. 

Heien raises whether a police officer's mistake of law can provide the individualized suspicion that the Fourth Amendment requires to justify a traffic stop. Police had stopped petitioner's car after noticing that one of the brake lights was out, but North Carolina law requires only one working brake light. 

In Navarette the police had stopped petitioner on the basis of a 911 call reporting that a car had run the caller off the road. The question presented for the Court was whether the Fourth Amendment requires an officer who receives an anonymous tip regarding a drunken or reckless driver to corroborate dangerous driving before stopping the vehicle.  In a 5-4 decision, the Court held that "the stop complied with the Fourth Amendment because, under a totality of the circumstances, the officer had reasonable suspicion that the driver was intoxicated."  In a dissenting opinion, Justice Scalia countered that the majority was establishing a disturbing new rule: "So long as the caller identifies where the car is, anonymous claims of a single instance of possibly careless or reckless driving, called in to 911, will support a traffic stop."