TOLL FREE 866-870-5890Local 509-590-2682 Free Initial Consultations - Se habla espaƱol.

State Supreme Court nixes police search and dismisses charges

Anywhere in the country, including Washington, law enforcement officers have the authority to stop motorists and anyone else using public roadways. Police authority, however, is not unlimited and cannot violate an individual's civil rights without due process. An officer can stop and search a person but only when there is probable cause for such a search.

That limitation recently played itself out when the Washington Supreme Court ruled that a September 2011 search by police was unconstitutional and thus a drug conviction was not valid. According to court documents, a Centralia police officer pulled a cyclist over for a minor traffic violation. The man was frisked, which the court ruled was allowable. The officer found a small box in one pocket of the man's pants and opened it. The officer allegedly found a syringe containing methamphetamine. The man was arrested and charged with drug possession.

A lower court judge ruled that the police search of the container violated the defendant's constitutional rights, even though the officer argued that he opened the box because he feared for his safety, believing that the defendant had a gun. The court, though, said the officer did not have reasonable cause to assume the box contained a weapon. An appeal court ruling reversed this decision, but that ruling was then overturned by the state Supreme Court. For this reason, the man's drug-related case was eventually dismissed.

A drug charge can result in severe penalties, ranging from job loss to time in prison to heavy fines. If the evidence used by prosecutors was not obtained with a legal search, however, it cannot be used in prosecuting drug charges against an individual. Illegal search and seizure is one of the defenses that a criminal defense team can use to suppress evidence and get charges against a defendant dismissed.

Source: The Chronicle, "State Supreme Court: Centralia Officer Had No Right to Search Container," July 10, 2014

No Comments

Leave a comment
Comment Information