FAQ – Please Read Here First

Welcome! I’m glad you have found this website and I hope it will be educational and informative for you. Below, I will answer some F.A.Q.s:

Q. What is the purpose of this website?

A. There are two purposes. First, it allows Mississippi law enforcement officers (LEO) to stay current on recent cases of interest in Mississippi (Mississippi Supreme Court as well as the Mississippi Court of Appeals) and federal cases (the United States Supreme Court as well as the federal 5th Circuit Court of Appeals –  which has jurisdiction over Mississippi as well as Louisiana and Texas). Most LEOs don’t get legal training every year. This website can provide a timely 30,000 foot view of where the courts currently stand on various cases (search, seizure, Miranda, MTCA and § 1983).

Secondly, it serves as a reference library with a search tool so that you can find a topic (i.e. plain view) and see a summary of each case that mentions “plain view” along with a hyperlink to the case. Most of you do not want to read legal cases in their entirety and sort out the parts that are important to you. In this website, I do that for you by providing a brief summary of the portion of the case that you care about as a LEO. Of course, if you want to read the entire case, it is there for you as well.

Prosecutors and defense counsel utilize powerful tools like Westlaw when conducting research to look for precedent about a particular issue. Law enforcement officers don’t typically have access to these tools. This website will give you access to these cases with a summary that is more suited for you. I am hopeful that by using this website your police reports and testimony will be more precise, which will result in fewer suppressions and more convictions.

Q. What types of cases are summarized?

A. Fourth Amendment (search, standing, search warrant execution, arrest warrant execution, Terry stops, Terry frisks, anonymous tips, plain view seizure, plain feel seizure, protective sweep, Summers doctrine, search incident to arrest, consent, motor vehicle exception, exigent circumstances, checkpoints, K-9 matters, private search doctrine, inventory and other community caretaking matters, exclusionary rule);

B. Fifth Amendment (Miranda, Edwards rule);

C. First Amendment (primarily disorderly conduct)

D. Mississippi Tort Claims Act (civil cases involving a police chase or car accident);

E. §1983 cases (civil cases accusing police of violating someone’s constitutional rights. Primarily excessive force and false arrest claims).

Q. Is reading the title good enough to know what that article is about?

A. No! There are sometimes five or six separate issues discussed by the court. It is hard to write a title that covers every topic covered in that case. Your best bet when looking for something is to use the search function.

Q. Can you explain the articles tab?

A. If you scroll to the Article section on the home page, you will see three separate categories:  1) Mississippi Case Updates, 2) Federal Case Updates, and 3) Legal Articles. The Mississippi Case Updates tab will contain cases from the Mississippi Court of Appeals and the Mississippi Supreme Court. The Federal Case Updates tab will contain cases from the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals (jurisdiction over Mississippi as well as Louisiana and Texas) and the U.S. Supreme Court. Legal Articles will be random blogs that will be released from time to time on various topics. You can use the search tab as a quick tool to find the topic you are seeking.

Q. What does the date mean in the title of the articles?

A. The date in the title is the date that the case was decided by the court. Additionally, a hyperlink to that court case will be provided at the end of each article.

Q. What does the highlighted name in the article indicate?

A. The highlighted name for criminal cases is the defendant. (In § 1983 and Mississippi Tort Claims Act civil cases, however, it is the plaintiff highlighted).  In most cases, there is only one defendant but on rare occasion, you may see two defendants in one case. In some cases, it is very obvious to spot the defendant. In others, it may get confusing as a passenger of a car might be the defendant. Hopefully, the highlighted name helps you.

Q. How many cases have you reviewed?

A. There are over 475 Mississippi cases and 140 federal cases that have been analyzed to date. Additionally, you have another 300 cases that are hyperlinked due to the age of the decision. Thus, between the analyzed cases and the hyperlinked references to other cases you have over 900 Mississippi and federal cases at your fingertips that go back over 50 years. Judges decide cases using the law and precedent from other cases.

Please note that often times there could be multiple cases that say the same thing. So don’t read a hyperlinked case as being “the only case” that says X. The more important thing is to note that there is good precedent for the decision you are reading and you have prior case law as proof.

Also, don’t confuse an older case as being less relevant than a case that just came out this year. Cases remain binding precedent unless they are overruled by the courts in subsequent cases.

Q. How come sometimes you hyperlink a case and sometimes you put the citation without a hyperlink?

A. The Mississippi Judiciary website generally has uploaded cases going back to 1996 (there are a handful of exceptions). So, if a case is older than that, I give you the citation instead. 99% of the time you can still find the case using google. The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals has uploaded cases going back to 1992. The Supreme Court of the United States has individual cases uploaded going back to 2016. Their opinions from 1991 – 2015 are contained in U.S. Reports on their website. In other words, they are in the electronic book but you have to scroll and do a word search to find the individual case you want.

Q. What are the abbreviations used?

A. For brevity, I use the following abbreviations in the articles:

MSC – Mississippi Supreme Court

MCOA – Mississippi Court of Appeals

5th – Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals

SCOTUS – Supreme Court of the United States

Q. As a Mississippi LEO, why do I care about Federal Case Updates?

A. Short answer:  1) Your case could end up going federal and be subject to federal court rulings and 2) If you are accused of violating someone’s constitutional rights, it will inevitably wind up in federal court as a § 1983 action (many federal cases that are posted will be these types of cases).

Q. How detailed is your analysis of the cases?

A. Almost all of the summaries are 1,000 – 2,000 words. I try to thread the needle and provide enough information and analysis so that you understand the issues and resolution but not so much that you feel like every article is a novel. I focus on the constitutional aspects (search, seizure, Miranda) of the opinions so not every argument made in the case is summarized.

Also, there are times when a court will rule that an issue is legally barred but they will then proceed to explain why the subject would not have prevailed anyway on that constitutional claim. I include these discussions in the summary as well so that you know where the courts stand on different constitutional issues.

Q. Any tips for using the search function?

A. Yes. The system will return a maximum of 30 cases for each search. Use quotes to narrow the search. For example, instead of typing search incident to arrest, type “search incident to arrest.” Also, you can try searches with multiple parameters, such as “search incident to arrest” and dog if you want to see only search incident to arrest cases where a dog was used.

Q. I think you missed an important recent case that should be in here or I have a great topic for a blog or I think you made a mistake in one of your summaries. 

A. Contact me. I would love to add the case. As for the blog idea, if you are thinking about it, it is likely that other LEOs are as well. Finally, if you see errors, links that aren’t working, etc., please let me know so that I can correct them.

Q. Every good lawyer has a disclaimer.  Where is your disclaimer?

A. Right here! This website is designed to be a starting point so that you can become familiar with the latest criminal and civil rulings from various courts that are of interest to Mississippi LEOs. However, it is always imperative that you reach out to your agency legal counsel or local prosecutor with any questions that you may have about your specific cases.

While you may have a scenario that is similar to a case presented on this website, all cases are heavily fact dependent and changes to the facts could distinguish your investigation from a ruling shown on this website. I am not your lawyer or your Agency’s lawyer. Having said all of that, if you seek clarification or more information on the cases that have been posted to this website, you are always welcome to reach out to me.