Monthly Archives: May 2015

State v. Wisdom: Unlawful Search of Zipped Shaving Kit Bag

Interesting opinion. In State v. Wisdom, the WA Court of Appeals Division III decided the removal and warrantless inspection of a zipped shut shaving kit bag found in the front seat of a stolen vehicle the defendant was driving was not a lawful search incident to arrest because  the defendant sat handcuffed in the patrol car at the time of the seizure and search of the toiletry bag. The methamphetamine found in the zipped shut shaving kit is not lawful pursuant to the impound inventory doctrine, as unzipping the kit exceeded the lawful scope of an impound.

Defendant Heath Wisdom drove a Chevrolet pickup truck with an ATV in its back. Someone earlier reported both vehicles as stolen. Yakima County Sheriff Deputy Nate Boyer, while on patrol, passed the pickup, and Boyer’s automated license plate reader identified the pickup as stolen. Officer Boyer pulled Wisdom over and arrested him for possession of a stolen vehicle. Boyer handcuffed Wisdom, searched his body, and escorted him to the patrol vehicle. Officer Boyer found on Wisdom’s body a pipe that Wisdom admitted he used for smoking methamphetamine.

Deputy Nate Boyer advised Heath Wisdom of his Miranda rights. Officer Boyer asked if there were drugs in the truck, and Wisdom replied that methamphetamine lay on the front seat. Officer Boyer looked inside the cab of the truck and saw filters, some cleaner, and a black “shaving kit type” bag. Officer Boyer concluded that the bag contained the methamphetamine. The toiletry bag was closed, but Boyer spied money through the mesh side of the bag.

After photographing the truck, Deputy Boyer removed the bag from the vehicle, opened it, and found methamphetamine, cocaine, ecstasy, heroin, drug paraphernalia, and two thousand seven hundred dollars in cash. Heath Wisdom told Deputy Boyer that he owned the black bag. Deputy Boyer had not asked Wisdom ifhe owned the black bag before searching inside the bag.

Deputy Boyer never obtained a warrant for his search, nor did he request Heath Wisdom’s consent before opening the black bag. Law enforcement impounded the truck and ATV, since the legal owner could not be located.

The State of Washington charged Heath Wisdom with three counts of Possession of a Controlled Substance in violation of RCW 69.50.4013(1) (cocaine, ecstasy, and heroin) and one count of Possession of a Controlled Substance with Intent to Deliver under RCW 69.50.401(1) (methamphetamine). Wisdom moved under CrR 3.6 to suppress all evidence found in the black toiletry bag. However, the trial court denied Heath Wisdom’s motion to suppress. The WA Court of Appeals accepted review of this case.

First, the Court reasoned that the search incident to arrest exception to the warrant requirement did NOT excuse police from obtaining a search warrant before unzipping and perusing the inside of the shaving kit bag. The court’s opinion was quite lengthy in explaining the need for society to trust police, and that doing so required officers to obtain search warrants in cases like this, and that failure to do so violates a defendants rights under article I, section 7 of the WA Constitution as well as the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

The Court emphasized how the caselaw treats “luggage and other closed packages, bags, and containers” as unique for purposes of police searches. Washington courts recognize an individual’s privacy interest in his closed luggage, whether locked or unlocked. Indeed, the Court gave a very colorful analyses on this subject:

A person does not rummage through a woman’s purse, because ofsecrets obtained therein. A man’s shaving kit bag can be likened to a woman’s purse. The kit bag could obtain prescription drugs, condoms or other items the owner wishes shielded from the public. The bag is intended to safeguard the privacy of personal effects. Literature, medicines, and other things found inside a bag may reveal much about a person’s activities, associations and beliefs.

The Court further reasoned that Washington allows a few jealously and carefully drawn exceptions to the warrant requirement, which include exigent circumstances, searches incident to an arrest, inventory searches, plain view searches, and Terry stops. Furthermore, under Arizona v. Gant, a warrantless vehicle search incident to arrest is authorized when the arrestee would be able to obtain a weapon from the vehicle or reach evidence ofthe crime of arrest to conceal or destroy it. Here, Heath Wisdom sat handcuffed in the patrol car at the time of the seizure and search of the toiletry bag. He lacked access to the bag.

Furthermore, under State v. Snapp, the Court reasoned the WA Constitution disapproves expansive application of the search-incident-to arrest exception to the period of time after the arrestee is secured and attendant risks to officers have passed. When a search can be delayed without running afoul of concerns for officer safety or to preserve evidence of the crime of arrest from concealment or destruction by the arrestee, and does not fall within another applicable exception, the warrant must be obtained. The police officer can prevent destruction of evidence by holding the bag as a sealed unit until obtaining a warrant.

Finally, the Court ruled that the police officer’s inventorying of the pickup’s contents did NOT excuse the need to obtain a search warrant. Inventory searches, unlike other searches, are not conducted to discover evidence of crime. Although a routine inventory search does not require a warrant, a police department policy should not, however, justify an unconstitutional search. The permitted extent of an inventory search pursuant to police department policy must be restricted to effectuating the purposes that justify the exception warrant clause.

In conclusion, the Court of Appeals held the warrantless search inside of Mr. Wisdom’s black bag was not justified by either a search incident to arrest or an inventory search. The court reversed the trial court’s denial of Mr. Wisdom’s motion to suppress evidence, reversed his four convictions, and dismissed all charges filed against him.

Good opinion.

State v. Howerton: Citizen 911 Call Supports Terry Stop

 

In State v. Howerton, the WA Court of Appeals held that a citizen informant’s 911 call was reliable enough to support a Terry stop. The citizen informant provided her name, address, and telephone number to the dispatch, included a statement that she had just witnessed the crime, objective facts that indicated criminal rather than legal activity, and an offer to speak with the police if they needed to contact her.

On September 29, 2013, at 2:00 a.m., Laura Parks called 911 from her cell phone to report that she just witnessed someone break into a van parked across the street from her house. She provided her name, address, and telephone number to the dispatcher. Parks described the suspect as a black male, average build, five feet seven inches tall, wearing a baggy black leather jacket and baggy pants. She stated he left the area on foot and was heading south on Second Avenue in Burien, Washington.

Police responded to the call and began searching the area for the subject. They contacted a man identified as Delante Howerton matching the description. Howerton was handcuffed. Police noticed a blade sticking out of Howerton’s sleeve. When searched Howerton for weapons, police officers found a foot-long bread knife and a screwdriver on Howerton’s person.

Ms. Parks confirmed that Howerton was the individual she saw break into the van earlier.

Howerton was charged with attempted Theft of a Motor Vehicle, Making or Possessing Vehicle Theft Tools, and Intimidating a Public Servant. The trial court later dismissed the charge of intimidating a public servant. Howerton moved to suppress evidence obtained as a result of the investigatory detention. Specifically, Howerton argued Hutchinson lacked reasonable articulable suspicion to detain him when Hutchinson’s only source of information was from a named but unknown telephone informant. After a CrR 3.5 and CrR 3.6 hearing, the trial court denied Howerton’s motion to suppress.

A jury convicted Howerton of misdemeanor second degree attempted taking of a motor vehicle without permission and making or having vehicle theft tools. He appealed.

The Court of Appeals upheld Howerton’s conviction and ruled his stop/arrest was lawful under Terry v. Ohio. They reasoned that an investigatory Terry stop is permissible ifthe investigating officer has a reasonable and articulable suspicion that the individual is involved in criminal activity. A reasonable suspicion is the substantial possibility that criminal conduct has occurred or is about to occur. A reasonable suspicion can arise from information that is less reliable than that required to establish probable cause.

The Court further reasoned that an informant’s tip can provide police with reasonable suspicion to justify an investigatory Terry stop if the tip possesses sufficient “‘indicia of reliability.'” Courts employ the totality of the circumstances test to determine whether an informant’s tip possessed sufficient indicia of reliability to support reasonable suspicion. When deciding whether this indicia of reliability exists, the courts will generally consider several factors, primarily “(1) whether the informant is reliable, (2) whether the information was obtained in a reliable fashion, and (3) whether the officers can corroborate any details of the informant’s tip.” Known citizen informants are presumptively reliable.

Here, the Court further reasoned that Parks’s 911 call demonstrated a sufficient factual basis to provide reasonable suspicion for the seizure:

Here, Parks unequivocally indicated to the 911 dispatcher that she was an eyewitness. When she called 911, she told the dispatcher, “I just saw a robbery.” She provided her full name, her address, and her telephone number. She indicated that she was willing to speak with police if they needed to contact her. She told the dispatcher the incident occurred “directly across the street” from her house and that it “just now happened.” She stated that an individual “broke into a car.” She said she actually saw him enter the car. She gave a detailed description of the suspect—black male, average build, short hair, five feet seven inches tall, wearing a baggy black leather jacket and baggy pants. The dispatcher immediately broadcast this description via radio to officers. Parks stated that the suspect just left the scene heading south on Second Avenue. She also accurately described the street location. Further, Parks reported objective facts that indicated criminal rather than legal activity.

The court further elaborated that Ms. Parks reinforced her factual basis for these allegations by stating that the incident “just now happened” and that the car was directly across the street from her house. Parks reported facts she personally observed. The Court decided the information was reliably obtained and that the police corroborated the information from Ms. Parks’ tip.

Consequently, the totality of the circumstances supported Howerton’s  Terry stop. The Court of Appeals upheld his conviction.

State v. Reis: Search & Seizure in Medical Marijuana Case

In State v. Reis, the WA Supreme Court decided that although medical marijuana use is a defense, police officers can still obtain search warrants and search people’s homes if sufficient probabale cause of criminal activity exists.

In 2012, Detective Thomas Calabrese received an anonymous tip from an individual living in the Shorewood area of Burien, informing him that a man named “William” was actively growing marijuana in a house in that neighborhood. The informant, who feared retaliation by Reis, declined to provide any additional information. Detective Calabrese began investigating. He conducted stakeout surveillance of the home and watched the defendant William Reis tending to numerous marijuana plants growing in the backyard. The detective also heard a distinct humming sound coming from the northwest side of the target home and observed black plastic covering the daylight basement window. Detective Calabrese also noticed condensation on this window.

Detective Calabrese also discovered Mr. Reis had a prior DV conviction and, during that arrest, officers discovered significant evidence of a marijuana grow operation, as well as a rifle and $18,000 cash hidden in the attic. Additional searches of Reis’s financial records in 2005 connected him to a large marijuana grow operation in California. Detective Calabrese also learned that Reis had been arrested in 2011 for possession of 1.3 grams of marijuana.

Based on this information, Detective Calabrese put all of this information in an affidavit of probable cause to support a search warrant of Reis’s home. Judge Eide granted a search warrant, finding probable cause to believe that Reis was violating Washington’s Uniform Controlled Substances Act, RCW 69.50. A search of Reis’s home pursuant to the search warrant revealed plants, scales, ledgers, sales receipts, and tools indicative of a marijuana grow operation. The search also revealed 37 plants and 210.72 ounces of cannabis.

Reis moved to suppress the evidence on the basis that officers lacked probable cause to search his home. The trial court denied his motion. The WA Court of Appeals granted review. They decided the authorized use of medical marijuana under RCW 69.51A.040 does not stop an officer from searching a home for criminal activity. Although compliant use of medical marijuana under the statute is an affirmative defense, it does not negate probable cause required for a search warrant. State v. Reis, 180 Wn.App. 438, 322 P.3d 1238 (2014). The WA Supreme Court  granted review and affirmed the Court of Appeals.

The WA Supremes reasoned that RCW 69.51A.040, as passed, does not decriminalize the medical use of marijuana. Instead, the plain language of the statute establishes a limited exception to the general prohibition against marijuana that existed at the time that the search warrant in this case issued. The Court summarized it best here:

The legislature may have intended to create heightened protections for qualifying patients who registered. However, because registration is currently impossible, the statute provides qualifying patients with only an affirmative defense until the legislature is able to establish a registry. Therefore, we reject Reis’s argument and affirm the Court of Appeals.

The Court describes how the “Medical Marijuana Defense” works under RCW 69.51A.040.

There are six required “terms and conditions” contained within RCW 69.51A.040. Subsection (1) places limits on the quantity of cannabis that a qualifying patient or designated provider may possess. Subsections (2) and (3) require registration with the Department of Health-now impossible in light of the governor’s veto-and require that the patient keep their registration within their home and present it to inquiring investigating officers. Subsections (4 ), (5), and (6) require that the investigating officer not possess evidence that the qualifying patient or designated provider is converting marijuana for their own use or benefit, or otherwise violating distribution requirements or registration requirements. If a qualifying patient or designated provider complies with all of these requirements, including registration, the use of marijuana does not constitute a crime.

Here, the search was valid because the plain language of the statute and the legislative intent lead to the conclusion that a user or possessor of cannabis may raise only an affirmative defense.

My opinion? Hate to say, but the reasoning makes sense. After all, assaulting people in the street is still a crime. One must prove a defense – hypethetically speaking, self-defense – by a preponderance of the evidence in order to be found not guilty of the crime of assault. The same reasoning applies here. The medical use of marijuana does not decriminalize marijuana use – it only provides a defense if one is charged with marijuane-related crimes. Police officers can still investigate citizens and apply for search warrants if probable cause exists that a crime is being committed.

State v. Fuentes & Sandoz: Are Terry Stops Legal in High-Crime Areas?

 

ghetto

The WA Supreme Court consolidated two search & seizure cases with very similar facts. Both cases involve Terry stops of a defendants who entered a high-crime areas and visited homes occupied by suspected drug dealers.

TERRY STOPS

 Generally, under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution and article I, section 7 of Washington’s constitution, an officer may not seize a person without a warrant. However, exceptions exist. A Terry investigative stop is one of the exceptions.

For those who don’t know, a “Terry stop” is a brief detention of a person by police on reasonable suspicion of involvement in criminal activity but short of probable cause to arrest. Picture an officer walking up to you and asking for your I.D. The name derives from Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1 (1968), in which the U.S. Supreme Court held that police may briefly detain a person who they reasonably suspect is involved in criminal activity. Also, police may conduct a limited search of the suspect’s outer garments for weapons if they have a reasonable and articulable suspicion that the person detained may be “armed and dangerous”. When a search for weapons is authorized, the procedure is known as a “stop and frisk.”

To have reasonable suspicion that would justify a stop, police must be able to point to “specific and articulable facts” that would indicate to a reasonable person that a crime has been, is being, or is about to be committed. Reasonable suspicion depends on the “totality of the circumstances”, and can result from a combination of facts, each of which is by itself innocuous.

State v. Fuentes

In this case, police officers were conducting a stakeout of a known drug house. They saw Marisa Fuentes park her car across the street from the apartment. She walked up to the apartment, entered, stayed for about five minutes, and returned to her car. She opened the trunk of her car and removed a small plastic bag. The bag contained something about the size of a small football. Then Fuentes reentered the apartment, stayed for about five minutes, and returned to her car with a bag that had noticeably less content than when she entered the apartment.

Based on what officers observed, police stopped Fuentes’ car on suspicion of narcotics activity. An officer advised Fuentes that he needed to talk with her. For safety reasons, the officer requested that Fuentes come to the police vehicle, which she did. The officer read Fuentes her Miranda rights. Fuentas waived those rights and admitted she delivered marijuana to Fenton’s apartment.

The State charged Fuentes with Delivery of Marijuana. Fuentes moved to suppress evidence uncovered from the investigative stop of her car, including her statement about delivering marijuana, arguing that the police lacked reasonable suspicion to justifythe Terry stop of her vehicle. The trial court concluded that officers had reasonable   suspicion to stop the vehicle and therefore denied the motion to suppress. Fuentes was subsequently convicted of delivery of marijuana at a stipulated facts trial. She appealed.

The WA Supreme Court decided the police had reasonable suspicion of criminal activity particularized to Fuentes before the stop occurred.

The officers in this case. They knew about past drug activity at Fenton’s apartment. Police made controlled buys from Fenton and conducted a search of the apartment 11 months before and found drugs. The officers also testified they had recent information from individuals arrested on drugrelated charges that Fenton was still dealing drugs. Additionally, officers observed shortstay foot traffic that morning (10 visits between 10 p.m. and midnight) that suggested ongoing drug transactions.

Additionally, officers could reasonably infer that Fuentes participated in the ongoing drug transactions: Fuentes entered the apartment briefly, then returned to her car. She then carried a plastic bag into the apartment, and she left with a bag that had noticeably less content. Her stay lasted approximately five minutes. From these observations, officers could form a reasonable suspicion that Fuentes made a delivery at the apartment.

The WA Supremes affirmed the Court of Appeals in Fuentes because, under the totality of circumstances, the officers had individualized reasonable suspicion of criminal activity.

State v. Sandoz

In this case, around 11:30 p.m., Officer Chris Pryzgocld drove his patrol car past a six-unit apartment building in SeaTac. A high number of documented criminal incidents occurred in the area of this apartment building, including drug-related activity.

He saw a white vehicle parked illegally. The driver of the Jeep slumped down, as if to hide from the officer’s view, as the officer drove by. The officer parked his marked patrol car about 20 yards away. AFter waiting, he made contact with the slumped-over driver.

The officer observed Steven Sandoz leaving the apartment. The officer asked Sandoz what was going on. Sandoz replied that his friend gave him a ride to collect $20 from a friend. After more conversation, Sandoz admitted that he had a drug problem and said that he had a crack pipe in his pocket. Sandoz took out the pipe, and the officer arrested Sandoz for possession of drug paraphernalia. During a search incident to arrest, the officer felt something in Sandoz’s groin area. The officer read Sandoz his Miranda rights, and Sandoz admitted that he had two small envelopes of cocaine in his underwear.

Sandoz was arrested and charged with Possession of Cocaine. Although he tried suppressing the evidence at pretrial, the Judge denied the motion for the following reasons: (1) the officer knew the area had extremely high drug activity based on 911 calls and drug dealing investigations, (2) the officer knew that the apartment Sandoz exited belonged to Ms. Meadows, who had numerous drug-related convictions, including possession with intent to deliver, (3) the officer had express authority from the complex owner to trespass nonoccupants for “loitering” at the complex, (4) the Jeep did not belong to any of the tenants at the complex, (5) the driver of the Jeep slouched down when the officer drove past, (6) the driver and Sandoz had conflicting stories for why they were in the area, (7) Sandoz looked surprised when he saw the officer, and (8) Sandoz visibly shook and looked pale when the officer talked to him.

Sandoz was found guilty at a bench trial he appealed. The WA Supreme Court granted certiorari.

Under the totality of the circumstances, the WA Supreme Court ruled that the officer did not have reasonable suspicion of criminal activity individualized to Sandoz to justify his Terry stop. First, Sandoz’s surprise at seeing the officer did not suggest criminal behavior. Next, the driver’s story did not conflict with Sandoz’s story. The driver said that his friend called him for a ride, and Sandoz said his friend gave him a ride to the apartment to collect $20. Rather than conflict, the stories confirmed one another.

Furthermore, as to Sandoz’s physical appearance, the officer did not attribute Sandoz’s pallor or shaking to drugs or to any illicit conduct. Thus, this fact does not add to circumstances that suggest criminal activity. The fact that the officer did not recognize the Jeep might justify the officer’s contact with the driver, but the oflicer did not connect this fact with anything the officer observed about Sandoz.

Additionally, Sandoz did not loiter or trespass. “Loiter” means “to remain in or near a place in an idle or apparently idle manner.” Sandoz did not remain idle: he left the apartment and walked immediately to the Jeep without stopping. Although the individuals in the Jeep may have loitered, that issue is not before the court. Similarly, Sandoz did not appear to trespass: he entered a tenant’s apartment, stayed inside at least 15 minutes without any known discord, and left directly to the Jeep. The facts suggest that Sandoz was an invited guest of Ms. Meadows, and as the officer stated, simply going into an apartment does not equal wrongdoing.

Finally, the Court reasoned that although Sandoz was visiting the apartment of a suspected drug dealer late at night in a high-crime area, this fact by itself does not justify a Terry stop. Other facts must exist to suggest criminal behavior. An officer’s hunch does not justify a stop. The totality of the circumstances in this case do not justify a Terry stop.

The WA Supremes concluded officers did not have reasonable suspicion that Sandoz engaged in criminal activity and reversed the Court of Appeals decision affirming his guilt.

State v. I.B.: Shaking Your Head Means “No” Under Miranda.

In State v. I.B., the WA Court of Appeals decided a juvenile suspect’s shaking of his head in the negative after police asked him, post Miranda, if he was willing to talk was an unequivocal assertion of his Fifth Amendment rights.

Here, 15-year-old defendant I.B. was taken into custody as a suspect in a Residential Burglary crime. While being interrogated, I.B. shook his head in the negative after police asked him if he was willing to talk. Nevertheless, police continued their questioning and I.B. made inculpatory statements against his best interests. The trial court suppressed I.B.’s statements at his 3.5 Hearing and concluded that I.B’s shake of the head signaled an assertion of his right to remain silent. Later, I’B’s case was dismissed. The State appealed the trial court’s suppression.

The issue before the Court of Appeals was whether I.B.’s shaking his head in the negative after being asked if he was willing to talk was an unequivocal assertion of the right to remain silent. The court decided it was.

The court reasoned that the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution provides that “[n]o person … shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself.” To counteract the inherent compulsion of custodial interrogation, police must administer Miranda warnings. Miranda, 384 U.S. at 479. Miranda requires that the defendant “be warned prior to any questioning that he has the right to remain silent, that anything he says can be used against him in a court of law, that he has the right to the presence of an attorney, and that if he cannot afford an attorney one will be appointed for him prior to any questioning if he so desires.” Once a suspect invokes his right to remain silent, police may not continue the interrogation or make repeated efforts to wear down the suspect.

Furthermore, the court reasoned a suspect need not verbally invoke his right to remain silent. In fact, Miranda sets a low bar for invocation of the right: “If the individual indicates in any manner, at any time prior to or during questioning, that he wishes to remain silent, the interrogation must cease.” Miranda, 384 U.S. at 473-74 (emphasis added). However, suspects must “unambiguously” express their desire to be silent. The test as to whether a suspect’s invocation of his right to remain silent was unequivocal is an objective one, asking whether'” a reasonable police officer in the circumstances would understand the statement'” to be an invocation of Miranda rights. Once a suspect has clearly invoked the right to remain silent, police questioning must immediately cease.

Here, I.B. unequivocally invoked his right to remain silent. Nothing in the circumstances leading up to I.B.’s invocation rendered his head movement ambiguous. The police officers read I.B. his Miranda rights and I.B. understood his rights. Both officers testified they understand shaking the head side to side to communicate the word ‘No.’ This affirmative conduct unambiguously signaled LB.’s desire for the questioning to cease. Consequently, the trial court properly suppressed LB.’s custodial statements.

My opinion? Good decision. In the context of interrogations, shaking one’s head side to side means no. There’s no other reasonable interpretation.

State v. A.A.: Unlawful Search of Juvenile

 In State v. AA, the Washington Court of Appeals decided an officer who detained a runaway juvenile under RCW 13.32A, the Family Reconciliation Act, unlawfully removed methamphetamine and marijuana from the youth’s pocket. The court reversed his conviction.

In State v. AA, the juvenile defendant A.A. was reported as a runaway. Officer Escamilla found A.A. walking down an alley a few blocks north of his mother’s house. The Officer detains AA and conducts a search before taking AA to the Crisis Residential Center (CRC), a detention center for minors.

Officer Escamilla searched A.A. near his patrol car. During the search, the officer found methamphetamine in a coin pocket of A.A.’s pants and marijuana in another pocket. The officer then transported A.A. to a juvenile detention center, rather than the CRC. The State charged A.A. with two counts of Unlawful Possession of a Controlled Substance.

The trial court denied AA’s motion to suppress the evidence. At the CrR 3.6 hearing, Officer Escamilla testified that A.A. was “just walking down an alley” and appeared “upset,” but that he was not engaged in criminal activity and did not appear dangerous to himself or others. At a bench trial, A.A .was found guilty on both drug charges. He appealed. The Court of Appeals took the case.

The sole issue on appeal was whether the trial court mistakenly concluded Officer Escamilla’s search of  A.A. was reasonable under the Family Reconciliation Act (the Act) because A.A. was going to be transported to the CRC, a secure facility for juveniles, which requires a search of juveniles before admission.

The Court of Appeals decided that while an officer may lawfully conduct a pat-down search for weapons prior to transporting the youth, the officer may not conduct a full search.

The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution and article I, section 7 of the Washington Constitution prohibit unreasonable searches and seizures.

The Court reasoned that Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution and article I, section 7 of the Washington Constitution  prohibit unreasonable searches and seizures. Under these provisions, warrantless searches are “per se” unreasonable. However, a search incident to a lawful arrest is a recognized exception to the warrant requirement. The exception allows an officer to search an arrestee for weapons as a measure to protect the officer or to search for evidence that may be destroyed. The community caretaking function, which allows for limited searches when it is necessary for police officers to render emergency aid or assistance, is also a recognized exception to the warrant requirement. These types of searches are “divorced” from a criminal investigation. Finally, the State has the burden of proving the search was lawful.

The Court reasoned that here, the particular circumstances did not justify the search of A.A.’s pockets. Once the officer conducted the pat-down search and determined that A.A. did not have a weapon, the search should have stopped. A.A. had not committed a crime and, therefore, there was no need to preserve evidence of a crime. A.A. did not exhibit signs of dangerousness to himself or others. The only concern was for officer safety.

Finally, the Court reasoned that although A.A. would be transported to a detention facility with other minors, this facility “was a noncriminal protective custody situation, which requires us to accord maximum weight to A.A.’s privacy interest in evaluating the reasonableness of the search.”

The Court of Appeals reversed A.A.’s conviction.

My opinion? Excellent decision. The law was simple, and simply applied. The State failed to establish an exception to the warrant requirement. Period. Good decision.