Category Archives: Dismissal

State v. Froehrich: Unlawful Inventory Search

Image result for unlawful search purse bag

In State v. Froehlich, the WA Court of Appeals Division II upheld the suppression of methampetamine found in a vehicle because the defendant’s car was unlawfully searched.

BACKGROUND

Ms. Froehlich was driving her car. She collided with a pickup truck waiting at a stop sign. After the collision, the car came to rest on the right shoulder of the highway. It was not obstructing traffic. A Washington State Patrol Trooper arrived at the scene. By this time, Froehlich was seated in the pickup truck that she had hit.

Ms. Froehlich eventually left the scene in an ambulance after talking with police at the scene. One trooper followed her to the hospital to do sobriety testing, and she was not arrested. However, the trooper at the scene of the accident decided to impound her car. At the scene, he performed an inventory search of the vehicle which also included the search of Froerich’s purse which she left inside the car. He found methamphetamine.

Ms. Froehrich was charged with Unlawful Possession of a Controlled Substance With Intent to Manufacture or Deliver. Froehlich filed a motion to suppress the methamphetamine, arguing in part that the Trooper had no reason to impound the car and failed to consider reasonable alternatives to impoundment. The trial court granted the motion, suppressed the evidence and ultimately dismissed the charges. The State appealed.

ANALYSIS

Ultimately, the Court of Appeals agreed with the lower court that the impoundment was not lawful and therefore the search was not lawful because (1) under the community caretaking exception, the State did not prove that the impounding officer considered whether Froehlich, her spouse, or her friends were available to remove the vehicle; and (2) even though there was statutory authority for impoundment, the State failed to prove that the impounding officer considered all reasonable alternatives.

The Court reasoned that both the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution and article I, section 7 of the Washington Constitution prohibit warrantless searches unless an exceptions to the warrant requirement applies. One exception to the warrant requirement is a non-investigatory, good faith inventory search of an impounded vehicle. Law enforcement may lawfully impound a vehicle for three reasons: (1) as evidence of a crime, (2) under the community caretaking function, or (3) when the driver has committed a traffic offense for which the legislature has expressly authorized impoundment. Even if one of these reasons exists, however, an officer may impound a vehicle only if there are no reasonable alternatives.

Here, the Trooper’s impoundment of Froehlich’s car was not lawful under the community caretaking function because there were reasonable alternatives to impoundment. Here, the Trooper never asked Froehlich about arranging to have someone else remove the car as an alternative to impoundment, and the State presented no evidence that the Trooper considered Froehlich’s ability to arrange for the car’s removal.

CONCLUSION

Because Richardson unlawfully impounded the vehicle, his seizure of methamphetamine from Froehlich’s purse was unlawful.

My opinion? Good decision. Very simple, straightforward and correct analysis. As usual, I’m extremely impressed with Division II’s handling of search and seizure issues, especially when it comes to vehicle searches. Here, it’s clear that police officers cannot go about impounding people’s vehicles and searching through belongings when reasonable legal alternatives exist.

State v. Linder: Unwitnessed Search is Unlawful

Image result for police search

In State v. Linder, the WA Court of Appeals Division III decided that evidence obtained pursuant to a search warrant was properly suppressed because the officer’s inventory of the search was not conducted with at least one witness.

Here, Defendant Aaron Linder was arrested by Kalama Police Chief Grant Gibson in March 2013 for driving with a suspended license. During the search incident to arrest, Chief Gibson found a small tin box inside the pocket of Mr. Linder’s hoodie. After being informed of his Miranda rights, Mr. Linder admitted being a daily user of hard drugs and that the tin box contained drug paraphernalia. But he refused to give his consent for Chief Gibson to open the box initially, and refused a second time at the police station.

The police obtained a search warrant. Sergeant Parker, without anyone else present, executed the warrant by opening the metal box and photographing and inventorying its contents. It was typical for the department’s night shift officer to work alone. The Kalama police department has a total of only five sworn officers.

Sergeant Parker inventoried the tin box as containing two pieces of aluminum foil, an empty plastic box, two plastic tubes, a hair pin, a safety pin, and a piece of plastic from a cigarette package. The cigarette wrapper contained a crystalline substance that appeared to be methamphetamine. After he finished the inventory and completed the return of service form, Sergeant Parker placed the items, a copy of his report, and a note for Chief Gibson in a temporary evidence locker.

The next morning, Chief Gibson, also acting alone, verified that the contents in the box matched Sergeant Parker’s inventory and field tested a small quantity of the cellophane wrapper and its contents, which tested positive for methamphetamine. He packaged the remainder of the crystalline substance for submission to the crime laboratory. Mr. Linder was thereafter charged with one count of Violation of the Uniform Controlled Substances Act, Chapter 69.50 RCW, for possession of methamphetamine.

Before trial, Mr. Linder moved to suppress the evidence found in the tin box on the grounds that it was searched in violation of CrR 2.3( d). The rule provides that a return of the search warrant shall be made promptly, shall be accompanied by a written inventory of any property taken, and-relevant here-that “the inventory shall be made in the presence of the person from whose possession or premises the property is taken, or in the presence of at least one person other than the officer.” In the suppression hearing that followed, both Sergeant Parker and Chief Gibson testified that they were unaware of the rule’s requirement that the inventory be made in the presence of another person.

The trial court granted Mr. Linder’s motion to suppress. The State appealed.

In reaching its decision, the WA Court of Appeals looked to the Exclusionary Rule In considering whether the contraband should be suppressed.

For those who don’t know, the Exclusionary Rule is a legal principle in the United States, under constitutional law, which holds that evidence collected or analyzed in violation of the defendant’s constitutional rights is sometimes inadmissible for a criminal prosecution in a court of law. The exclusionary rule may also, in some circumstances at least, be considered to follow directly from the constitutional language, such as the Fifth Amendment‘s command that no person “shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself” and that no person “shall be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law”.

The Exclusionary Rule is grounded in the Fourth Amendment and it is intended to protect citizens from illegal searches and seizures. The exclusionary rule is also designed to provide a legal remedy and disincentive, which is short of criminal prosecution in response to prosecutors and police who illegally gather evidence in violation of the Fifth Amendment in the Bill of Rights compelled to self-incrimination. The exclusionary rule also applies to violations of the Sixth Amendment, which guarantees the right to counsel.

The WA Court of Appeals reasoned that Washington’s version of the Exclusionary Rule had three objectives:

First, and most important, to protect privacy interests of individuals against unreasonable governmental intrusions; second, to deter the police from acting unlawfully in obtaining evidence; and third, to preserve the dignity of the judiciary by refusing to consider evidence which has been obtained through illegal means.

Here, reasoned the Court, excluding the evidence served the third objective of preserving the dignity of the judiciary by refusing to consider evidence obtained through illegal means.  Here, a police officer’s unwitnessed late night execution of a search warrant in this case clearly violated CrR 2.3(d), called the reliability of his inventory into question, and could not be remedied other than by suppression.

My opinion? Great decision. Kudos to Division III for following the law.

State v. Flores: WA Court of Appeals Decides Frisk for Gun Was Unconstitutional

 

In State v. Flores, Division III of the WA Court of Appeals UPHELD the suppression of a gun that officers found on an individual who was walking with a known-gang member and fugitive who had just threatened another person with a firearm. The reason for the suppression? There were no grounds to frisk the defendant because he made no furtive movements, had no known violent propensities, and was compliant with all of the officer’s directions.

Here, Moses Lake police were responded to an anonymous report that Giovanni Powell held a gun to somebody’s head. Dispatch also reported an outstanding warrant for the arrest of Powell. He was a known gang member and a fugitive.

The defendant, Cody Flores, was with Powell. Although Flores had no warrants for his arrest and did not point a firearm at anyone, Flores did, in fact, possess a firearm on his person. Unfortunately, he possessed the firearm unlawfully because a prior felony conviction barred his possession.

Police apprehended both Powell and Flores. Although Flores complied with officers, had no known violent propensities and was compliant with all of the officer’s directions, Flores was nevertheless frisked. Officers found his friearm. He was charged with Unlawful Possession of a Firearm in the First Degree in violation of RCW 9.41.040(1)(a). However, Flores’ his defense attorney prevailed in a 3.6 Motion to suppress the firearm due to an unlawful search.

Among other findings, the trial court found that the officers lacked individualized articulable suspicion to suspect Cody Flores of criminal activity. The trial court granted Cody Flores’ motion to suppress evidence of the gun found on his person and dismissed the charge against him. The State filed an appeal.

The WA Court of Appeals sided with the trial court’s suppression. It reasoned that the Washington Constitution, not the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution, is the controlling law. Article I, section 7 of the WA Constitution provides that “No person shall be disturbed in his private affairs, or his home invaded, without authority of law.” The Court reasoned that WA’s protection encompasses and exceeds the protection guaranteed in the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution.

The Court further reasoned that, as a general rule, warrantless searches and seizures are per se unreasonable, in violation of the Fourth Amendment and article I, section 7 of the Washington State Constitution. There are five exceptions to the warrant requirement. They include (1) exigent circumstances, (2) searches incident to a valid arrest, (3) inventory searches, (4) plain view searches, and (5) Terry investigative stops. The State bears the burden of demonstrating that a warrantless seizure falls into a narrow exception to the rule. “This is a strict rule.” said the Court. “Exceptions to the warrant requirement are limited and narrowly drawn.

“Merely associating with a person suspected of criminal activity does not strip away the protections of the constitution,” said the Court. “In order for police to lawfully seize an otherwise innocent individual present with an arrestee, the arresting officer must articulate an ‘objective rationale’ predicated specifically on safety concerns.”

Finally, the court reasoned that automatically authorizing the search of non-arrested individuals because those individuals happen to be associated with the arrestee, or within the vicinity of the arrest, would distort the narrow limits of the warrant exceptions and offend fundamental constitutional principles. Because the privacy interest of a non arrested individual remains largely undiminished, full blown evidentiary searches of non-arrested individuals are constitutionally invalid even when officers may legitimately fear for their safety. “A generalized concern for officer safety has never justified a full search of a nonarrested person,” said the court.

With that, the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s suppression of evidence and dismissal of charges against Cody Flores.

My opinion? This is a well-reasoned case. It’d be different if the defendant was doing something unlawful, being uncooperative and/or raising safety concerns with the police. Here, the situation was purely mathematics. Again, there can search incident to arrest if there is no arrest. And there can be no arrest without probable cause. Here, there was no probable cause to arrest and search Mr. Flores. Period.

Good opinion!

State v. E.J.J.: Exercising Freedom of Speech is NOT Obstructing.

Barclays Center protest in Brooklyn, NY on December 1, 2014.

Excellent opinion.

In State v. E.J.J., the Washington Supreme Court  held that a juvenile offender, who called the officers abusive names, yelled, and used profanity toward the officers while the officers were engaged in a criminal investigation, CANNOT be convicted of obstructing a law enforcement officer. The words the juvenile directed at the officers are protected by the First Amendment. The obstruction statute is also not violated by a citizen’s presence at a scene, provided the citizen does not physically interfere with police. 

Here, juvenile defendant E.J.J. was charged with Obstructing a Law Enforcement Officer under RCW 9A.76.020(1). Under this law, a person is guilty of obstructing a law enforcement officer if the person willfully hinders, delays, or obstructs any law enforcement officer in the discharge of his or her official powers or duties. Obstructing is a gross misdemeanor punishable up to 1 year in jail and a $5,000.00 fine.

This case began as a call for police assistance to E.J.J. ‘s house to help with his intoxicated, out-of-control sister, R.J. (a juvenile at the time). The police responded and began their intervention by escorting R.J. out of the house 10 to 15 feet away from the front door, where the officers attempted to calm her down. E.J.J. grew concerned when he saw an officer reach for what he perceived to be a nightstick. E.J.J. exited the house and stood on the porch, telling the officers that R.J. was his sister and that they should not use the nightstick. The officers advised him that they were in the middle of their investigation and instructed him multiple times to leave the scene and return to the house.

Initially, E.J.J. did not comply, questioning why he had to return to the house. When, eventually, he did return to his home, he stood in the open doorway and continued his verbal interaction with the officers. The house had double doors: a wrought iron screen door, through which someone could see out and communicate through, and a second, solid wood door.

The officers directed E.J.J. multiple times to close the solid wood door and to withdraw further into the home, but E.J.J. refused, stating that he wanted to supervise the scene from the doorway ( 10 to 15 feet away from the other officers and R.J.) to make sure that R.J. was not harmed. E.J.J. continued to stand behind the closed wrought iron door. Multiple times, an officer reached into the home to close the solid door. E.J.J. would immediately reopen it. At this point, E.J.J. was irate, yelling profanities and calling the officers abusive names. An officer warned E.J.J. that he could be arrested for obstruction. After E.J.J. continued to reopen the solid door, an officer put him under arrest for obstruction of a law enforcement officer. The entire interaction lasted approximately 10 to 15 minutes.

E.J.J. was found guilty at trial. he appealed his conviction to the WA Court of Appeals. Unfortunately, the Court of Appeals upheld E.J.J.’s conviction. The case was again appealed, only this time to the WA Supreme Court.

 The WA Supreme Court reasoned that many court cases have consistently and strongly held that people cannot be held liable when exercising their right to speak. “While E.J.J. ‘s words may have been disrespectful, discourteous, and annoying, they are nonetheless constitutionally protected.”

The Court further reasoned that our cases have consistently required conduct in order to establish obstruction of an officer. In other words, a conviction for obstruction may not be based solely on an individual’s speech because the speech itself is constitutionally protected. This review is also consistent with the approach established by the United States Supreme Court’s See Street v. New York.”

The WA Supreme Court had many reasons for disagreeing with the WA Court of Appeals. First, the WA Supremes disagreed that E.J .J.’ s physical approach toward the officers was sufficient evidence of conduct to support his conviction: “E.J.J. did not physically interfere with or touch either the police or his sister. Furthermore, the trial court’s findings of fact provide that E.J.J. did not make any threatening movements toward the officers at any time.”

Second, the WA Supremes disagreed that E.J.J.’s presence at the scene escalated the situation: “E.J.J. ‘s mere presence at the scene cannot constitute conduct. E.J.J. had every right to stand on his own property, provided he did not physically interfere with police.”

Third, the WA Supremes disagreed that E.J.J.’s refusal to obey the officers’ repeated requests to leave the scene was sufficient evidence of conduct: “This exchange is so intertwined with E.J.J.’s protected speech that we find insufficient evidence of E.J.J. ‘s conduct to support his conviction on this basis.”

Finally, the WA Supremes disagreed there was evidence of obstruction because an officer was eventually required to escort E.J.J. back to the home, thus delaying officers: “Inconvenience cannot, taken alone, justify an arrest for obstruction.” The Court concluded with the following:

“Where individuals exercise their constitutional rights to criticize how the police are handling a situation, they cannot be concerned about risking a criminal conviction for obstruction. Such a conviction is not permitted under the First Amendment. After a comprehensive review of the record and the trial court’s findings, the decision of the trial court is reversed and charges are dismissed.”

My opinion? EXCELLENT decision. I’ve had many, many clients charged with Obstructing simply because they voiced a heated opinion with law enforcement officers during an investigation. Although it’s never okay to be disrespectful toward law enforcement, obstructing requires conduct – plain and simple. I’m pleased our Washington Supreme Court made the right decision.

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. 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. Budd: Ferrier Warnings Improperly Given

Good decision. In State v. Budd, the WA Court of Appeals decided a law enforcement officer must properly deliver all three parts of the Ferrier warnings before entering a residence.

Some background on Ferrier warnings is necessary. In State v. Ferrier, 136 Wn.2d 103, 960 P.2d 927 (1998) the WA Supreme Court held that, before entering a citizen’s home without a warrant, a law enforcement officer must (1) ask the citizen for consent, (2) inform the citizen that he can revoke consent at any time and (3) notify the citizen that he can limit the scope of the entry into the home. If an officer fails to provide these Ferrier rights/warnings, then any evidence obtained from the search is “fruits of the poisonous search” and also subject to being suppressed.

Appellant Michael Allen Budd was convicted of Possession of Depictions of Minors Engaged in Sexually Explicit Conduct under RCW 9.68A.070. He contends that the trial court erred in its denial of his ER 3.6 motion to suppress evidence obtained in a warrantless search of his residence by the officers investigating the case. He argued the Ferrier warnings were insufficient.

Washington State Patrol’s Missing and Exploited Children Task Force  received an anonymous “cybertip” from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. The anonymous source declared that Michael Allen Budd communicated with young girls on Yahoo! Messenger and Windows Live Messenger, both free online chat services. The anonymous source stated that he or she had seen child pornography on Budd’s computer.

On March 11,2009, Detective Kim Holmes travelled to Ephrata to Mr. Budd’s home. In law enforcement, a “knock and talk” is an investigative technique where one or more police officers approaches a private residence, knocks on the door, and requests consent from the owner to search the residence. Law enforcement performs the “knock and talk” when criminal activity is suspected, but officers lack probable cause to obtain a search warrant.

Detective Kim and other officers made contact with Holmes at his home. Although many of the facts are in dispute, it appeared that Detective Kim did not properly discuss Ferrier warnings with Mr. Holmes.

The court reasoned that Detective Holmes’ police report lacked any mention of Holmes’ informing Budd that he had a right to decline consent to enter the home, limit the scope of the search, and revoke consent at any time. Finally, the report implied that Holmes misrepresented that a court would authorize a search warrant. Based on this, the Court of Appeals ruled that the detective did not voice all Ferrier warnings before entering the home, and that law enforcement officers MUST deliver all cautions before entering the residence. Consequently, the Court reversed the conviction and dismissed the case.

My opinion? I agree with this excerpt from the Court of Appeals:

Viewing child pornography is a hideous crime that robs children of innocence and scars them for life. Those who watch child pornography obsessively gamer gratification through violent acts on defenseless children. Catching one at the crime takes diligence since the viewer indulges in the privacy of his home, often by elaborate security measures on his computer. Thus, we reluctantly reverse the trial court.

Nevertheless, as judges, we pledged to uphold the constitution and the endearing rights protected by the constitution. Those engaged in hideous conduct are entitled to the protections afforded under our state and federal constitution including the right to be free of unlawful searches and seizures.

Well said.

State v. Carneh: Why Defense Attorneys Should Seek Dismissals WITH Prejudice

http://www.courts.wa.gov/opinions/?fa=opinions.disp&filename=614452MAJ

A painful teacher.  And quite possibly avoidable.

In State v. Carneh, the WA Court of Appeals decided the Prosecution could refile charges on a defendant after previously dismissing the case without prejudice. 

Typically, prosecutors dismiss cases in one of two ways: with prejudice, or without prejudice.   Dismissing a case with prejudice means prosecutors cannot refile future charges against the defendant.  However, dismissing  without prejudice means the prosecutor may, in the future, refile charges at time if (1) statute of limitations has not expired, (2) jurisdiction still exists, and (3) prosecutors develop substantial probable cause to refile. 

In this case, the State charged Carneh with four counts of aggravated murder in March 2001.  After extensive and periodically successful competency restoration treatment, the trial court ultimately dismissed the case without prejudice because it found Carneh was incompetent to stand trial at that time.  The State refiled charges after learning that Carneh had shown signs of improvement.  The trial court ordered further competency restoration.

RCW 10.77.086 provides that if competency restoration efforts are ultimately unsuccessful, “the charges shall be dismissed without prejudice, and either civil commitment proceedings shall be instituted or the court shall order the release of the defendant.”  After a trial court dismisses charges without prejudice pursuant to this statute, it loses the criminal jurisdiction and with it the authority to order competency evaluation or restoration.  But the statute reserves the prosecutor’s ability to refile charges and makes clear that the bar against trying incompetent defendants lasts only so long as such incapacity continues.  The prosecutor’s ability to refile is not unfettered; rather, the prosecutor must have a good faith basis to believe that competency has or will likely be restored.  In this case, the prosecutor received a letter from Western State Hospital indicating that Carneh’s condition had improved.  The letter was sufficient good faith basis to refile.  The trial court thereby reacquired criminal jurisdiction and with it the authority to order further competency restoration.  Ouch!!

My opinion?  Division II made a painfully reasonable  decision.  Competent defense attorneys should know that prosecutors may refile charges at any time if a case is dismissed without prejudice.  The remedy?  Whenever possible, defense attorneys should seek dismissals with prejudice.  True, our knee-jerk reaction is, quite simply, to take a dismissal in any form or fashion.  We’re grateful to get them for our clients, and nobody wants to look a gift horse in the mouth.   Still, a dismissal without prejudice obviously comes with strings attached.  Indeed, worst-case scenario like State v. Carneh could arise. 

Drug Courts Huge Success

A National Study found that Drug Courts are widely succesful. 

Here’s a summary of the study’s findings:

RECIDIVISM

Graduates of drug courts are less likely to be rearrested than persons processed through traditional court mechanics. Findings from drug court evaluations show that participation in drug courts results in fewer rearrests and reconvictions, or longer periods between arrests.

COST SAVINGS

Nationwide, drug courts save taxpayer dollars compared to simple probation and/or incarceration, primarily due to reductions in arrests, case processing, jail occupancy and victimization costs. While not all persons diverted to drug court would have otherwise been sentenced to prison, for those individuals who are incarcerated, the average annual cost is estimated to be $23,000 per inmate, while the average annual cost of drug court participation is estimated to be $4,300 per person.

THE EFFECT OF SANCTIONS

The study showed that Drug Courts which reward/sanction all levels of good/bad behavior recognize there is value in incremental progress toward the goal of abstinence.

A participant who faithfully makes all court appearances and meets the obligations of the court may be rewarded with an acknowledgement of accomplishment.  On the other hand, developing a flexible, graduated sanction program is a crucial contributor to a successful drug court program, because even those who are eventually successful in drug court tend first to relapse, warrant, and violate other program rules.

The study concluded that sanctioning should be seen as an opportunity to adjust treatment to limit subsequent relapse, rather than the first step on the path to an eventual termination of drug court participation and a likely sentence to custody.

ROLE OF THE JUDGE

One of the unique aspects of the drug court model is the frequency with which judges interact with participants. The relationship is less formalistic than in traditional courtrooms and is individualized based on the judge’s supervision of an individual’s progress.  The goal is partnership, not sentencing. 

My opinion?  I’m a HUGE fan of drug court!  First, it’s a great negotiating alternative for my clients facing drug charges IF the prosecutor’s charges are fairly strong, evidence is unlikely to be suppressed, and a jury would probably find the offender guilty.  Second, it’s impossible to treat drug addiction with jail or prison sentences.  Period.  Once released, the offender may likely continue using drugs.  Drug Court strikes at the root of the problem by addressing the drug addiction itself.  Finally, the program forces offenders to stay focused on treatment.  The State moniters treatment.  If offenders fail, they may face heavy consequences and get kicked out of Drug Court.

Drug Court should be implemented to a greater degree than it already is.  It presents a win/win situation for everyone: the public, courts, prosecutors, and ultimately the offender.

 

State v. Brooks: WA Court Rightfully Dismisses Criminal Charges Because Prosecution Withheld Evidence

A victory.

WA Court of Appeals dismissed a criminal case due to prosecutorial mismanagement and withholding  of evidence.

http://www.courts.wa.gov/opinions/index.cfm?fa=opinions.showOpinion&filename=361710MAJ

My opinion?  It’s about time!  The prosecutors, God bless ’em, usually have the upper hand with judges.   Typically, judges won’t sanction prosecutors or dismiss cases due to prosecutorial misconduct, mismanagement, or withholding of evidence (trust me, I’ve tried).

This opinion opens the door for judges to exercise more discretion in dismissing poorly managed cases.  In this case, the prosecutor withheld a a 60-page victim statement from the defense until the day of trial.   Unbelievable!  Imagine this: your attorney has geared up for trial.  They agonizingly prepped the case from start to finish.  Attorney has their theme, theory, motions in limine, opening statement, closing statement, voir dire questions, direct exam questions, and cross exam questions fully prepared before entering the court.  All of the sudden, prosecutor plops a huge pamphlet of papers in front of defense attorney’s face.  “Sorry you have no time to review this new statement, but go ahead and cross examine my witness on this.”  Unbelievable.  We have no idea what the statement contains.  If admitted to evidence, this unread statement could, by itself, utterly throw your case theory out the window.

The Court of Appeals has boldly decided these “Hide the Ball” shenanigens are going to get cases dismissed.  That governmental mismanagement materially affects a defendant’s right to a fair trial.  Good.  I understand that prosecutors work hard.  Their caseloads are huge.  But hey, let’s be real, people’s lives and liberty are at stake.  Constitutional rights are at risk.  Consequently, cases should be dismissed when poorly handled and/or mismanaged.