The 4th Amendment in Hot Pursuit of Agent Carter

What did we learn on the Agent Carter episode “A Sin to Err”? First, Howard Stark has a serious addiction to women. A psychologist could have a field day analyzing what failed emotion connection Howard had with his mother that turned him into a serial womanizer. Jarvis should have a workers comp and hostile workplace complaints against Stark for all the slapping he endured from jaded lovers.

The second big take away is the Constitution had a very big role in the episode.

Agent Sousa actually tried arresting Agent Carter by specifically stating charges against her: Treason, Espionage, and Adding and Abetting “Public Enemy Number 1” Howard Stark.

All of those charges would be supported by probable cause, plus a few other charges, such as kidnapping, obstruction of justice, and battery of a government agent. A Federal Prosecutor could probably tack a few more onto the criminal complaint.

The SSR’s failed attempt to capture Peggy Carter landed multiple agents in the hospital (plus probably a lot of bruised misogynist egos for being beat up by a “woman”). Agent Carter also effectively emasculated Agent Sousa, which might impact their future working relationship.

Now for the big question: Could the SSR Agents conduct a warrantless search of Agent Carter’s apartment after the failed arrest?

The answer is YES.

The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution states:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

USCS Const. Amend. 4.

The SSR went after Agent Carter in what was a traditional “hot pursuit” with a suspect fleeing law enforcement.

Revel in the geek irony of US v Carter, where the Court summarized that exceptions to the warrant requirements of the Fourth Amendment include: consent searches, searches incident to an arrest, searches concomitant to the “hot pursuit” of a felon, emergency searches for the protection of an arresting officer, and searches to prevent the imminent destruction or removal of evidence. United States v. Carter (D.C.Cir. 1975) 522 F.2d 666, 673.

The search of Agent Carter’s apartment would be considered an “exigent circumstance” and thus a reasonable exception to the Fourth Amendment.

The SSR was in an active pursuit by someone suspected of multiple crimes, who could take out a diner full of Federal Agents. Moreover, the concern whether Agent Carter had any of Howard Stark’s advanced weapons would be a concern for public safety. Furthermore, there was a legitimate concern to preserve evidence pertaining to national security from being lost or destroyed.

What would not be ok was detaining the landlord Miriam Fry. There was no evidence that Fry was involved in any wrongdoing. It is a huge stretch for the SSR Agents to argue that Fry being “annoying” to them was obstructing justice. While removing Fry for safety reasons would be a plausible argument, this really did look like a civil rights violation.

Other takeaways: Professionals who practice the healing arts took two black eyes in the episode. First, Dr. Ivchenko gave psychologists a bad name in that he exploited those who need mental health treatment. Second, people are already afraid of the dentist, so making one a sexual predator conducting illegal job interviews will not encourage people to get a teeth cleaning.

Professional reputations for psychologists and dentists aside, the episode closely followed the Constitution.  Agent Carter is building to a great conclusion. Keep up the good work.

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2 COMMENTS

  1. […] * Katy Perry’s lawyers from Greenberg Traurig lob another volley at the sculptor of Left Shark. Amazingly, they’re trying to use his sculpture in their trademark application. Can’t make this up. [Political Sculptor] * Former ATL Lawyer of the Year, Paul Weiss’s Roberta Kaplan, has an interesting new project. She’s asking Americans to co-sign an amicus brief for the upcoming marriage equality showdown. As one observer quipped, “How does conflict checking work in this situation?” [The People’s Brief] * Is the law school crisis ending in 2015? Hahahaha. [Tipping the Scales] * Litigation financier Gerchen Keller Capital LLC raised a boatload more money. It now has assets in excess of $800 million. That’ll pay for a lot of slip-and-falls (and other stuff too of course). [Chicago Law Bulletin] * Should the WWE unionize? Oh, please do! I’d actually love seeing Vince as a union-busting heel. [The Legal Blitz] * The details of the latest indictment of an NYPD officer over the killing of an unarmed black man really makes you wonder how Eric Garner’s killer got to walk. [Business Insider: Law & Order] * A glowing profile of David Lat discussing his career, ATL, and his new book (affiliate link). [Positively Filipino] * Tomorrow, the Constitutional Accountability Center and the National Constitution Center are co-sponsoring an event marking the 150th anniversary on of Congress’s approval of the Thirteenth Amendment. If you want to attend, get tickets at this link. If you just want to watch the livestream, we’ll link to that tomorrow. [National Constitution Center] * Agent Carter proves the Constitution does exist in the Marvel Universe. Even though I’m fuzzy on the part that allows unelected officials to launch nukes on Manhattan. [The Legal Geeks] […]

  2. […] * Katy Perry’s lawyers from Greenberg Traurig lob another volley at the sculptor of Left Shark. Amazingly, they’re trying to use his sculpture in their trademark application. Can’t make this up. [Political Sculptor] * Former ATL Lawyer of the Year, Paul Weiss’s Roberta Kaplan, has an interesting new project. She’s asking Americans to co-sign an amicus brief for the upcoming marriage equality showdown. As one observer quipped, “How does conflict checking work in this situation?” [The People’s Brief] * Is the law school crisis ending in 2015? Hahahaha. [Tipping the Scales] * Litigation financier Gerchen Keller Capital LLC raised a boatload more money. It now has assets in excess of $800 million. That’ll pay for a lot of slip-and-falls (and other stuff too of course). [Chicago Law Bulletin] * Should the WWE unionize? Oh, please do! I’d actually love seeing Vince as a union-busting heel. [The Legal Blitz] * The details of the latest indictment of an NYPD officer over the killing of an unarmed black man really makes you wonder how Eric Garner’s killer got to walk. [Business Insider: Law & Order] * A glowing profile of David Lat discussing his career, ATL, and his new book (affiliate link). [Positively Filipino] * Tomorrow, the Constitutional Accountability Center and the National Constitution Center are co-sponsoring an event marking the 150th anniversary on of Congress’s approval of the Thirteenth Amendment. If you want to attend, get tickets at this link. If you just want to watch the livestream, we’ll link to that tomorrow. [National Constitution Center] * Agent Carter proves the Constitution does exist in the Marvel Universe. Even though I’m fuzzy on the part that allows unelected officials to launch nukes on Manhattan. [The Legal Geeks] […]