Attorney General Laxalt Successfully Petitions US Supreme Court to Vacate Nevada Fourth Amendment Decision

June 27, 2016

Carson City, NV -   Today, Nevada Attorney General Adam Paul Laxalt announced that the U.S. Supreme Court granted the State of Nevada's petition seeking the Supreme Court's consideration of a nationally significant question of Fourth Amendment search and seizure law. The Court issued an order that sends the case of State of Nevada v. Torres back to Nevada's state courts for consideration of how new guidance on the application of the Fourth Amendment from the Court impacts the Torres case.    

In February 2008, an Elko County police officer stopped Ralph Torres, a pedestrian exhibiting signs of being under the influence of alcohol, to determine whether he was old enough to consume alcohol and be out after curfew. When Torres produced identification indicating he was over 21, the officer ran Torres' information to verify the validity of the ID and check for outstanding warrants. The records check revealed an outstanding warrant for Torres's arrest. While arresting Torres on the outstanding warrant, the officer found that Torres was unlawfully concealing a loaded firearm. 

In March 2008, the State of Nevada charged Torres with being an ex-felon in possession of a firearm and the unlawful possession of a concealed weapon. Torres successfully argued that his continued detention while his ID was being checked violated his Fourth Amendment rights. Nevada's petition asked the Supreme Court to review the case in order to determine whether briefly retaining an ID to validate its authenticity is an illegal seizure. Nevada also asked the Court to determine whether the discovery of an arrest warrant provided an independent basis to arrest and search Torres that cured any possible violation of the Fourth Amendment.  

"These Fourth Amendment questions have divided Nevada courts and others nationwide, and we are pleased by the U.S. Supreme Court's favorable ruling," said Laxalt. "This case was brought to my attention at my first Law Enforcement Summit convened in 2015, and subsequently reviewed by my Office. Our hard-fought victory is a testament to the outcome that can result from law enforcement collaboration and the careful constitutional analysis and persuasive writing of attorneys within our Solicitor General's Office."

"The Torres  and Strieff  cases presented a very important and heavily debated question about how to apply the Fourth Amendment during law enforcement stops," said Solicitor General Lawrence VanDyke. "The U.S. Supreme Court's intervention became necessary to resolve national disagreement about how to analyze that question, and I am very proud of our office's leadership role in convincing the Court to provide much-needed new guidance on the application of the Fourth Amendment."

To view the filed petition on behalf of the state of Nevada, click here .