State v. Brock: WA Supreme Court Reverses Search of Backpack Case

In State v. Brock, the WA Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals decision to reverse the Defendant’s convictions for 10 counts of Identity Theft in the Second Degree, 3 counts of Forgery, and violation of the Uniform Controlled Substances Act.

Last year, in State v. Brock: The “Time for Arrest” Doctrine, I blogged about how the Court of Appeals reversed Brock’s conviction, agreeing with Brock that it was not a valid search of his person under article I, section 7 of the Washington Constitution. The court reasoned that under the “Time for Arrest” doctrine, Brock did not have actual, exclusive possession of the backpack “immediately preceding” arrest and reversed Brock’s conviction on that basis.

Well, the WA Supreme Court decided different.

The Court reasoned that the “Time for Arrest” doctrine didn’t apply because the Defendant’s backpack was a part of his person at the time of arrest:

“Under these circumstances, the lapse of time had little practical effect on Brock’s relationship to his backpack. Brock wore the backpack at the very moment he was stopped by Officer Olson. The arrest process began the moment Officer Olson told Brock that although he was not under arrest, he was also not free to leave. The officer himself removed the backpack from Brock as a part of his investigation. And, having no other place to safely stow it, Brock would have to bring the backpack along with him into custody. Once the arrest process had begun, the passage of time prior to the arrest did not render it any less a part of Brock’s arrested person.”

Based on that the WA Supremes reversed the Court of Appeals and decided the search was a valid search incident to arrest.

My opinion? Obviously, I agree with Justice McCloud’s dissenting opinion. He stated that the majority opinion ignores the strict limitations imposed on law enforcement during a Terry stop, confuses the justifications for a Terry frisk with the justifications for a search incident to arrest, and “conflicts with our precedent holding that a full custodial arrest is a prerequisite to any search incident to arrest.”

Justice McCloud couldn’t have said it better in the tongue-in-cheek retort in the last sentence of his dissent:

“I fear the majority’s new rule will only invite further expansions of our ‘narrow’ and ‘jealously guarded’ exception to the warrant requirement.”

Exactly.