State v. Garvin: WA Supremes Held “Squeeze Search” Unlawful

Very impressive opinion regarding unlawful pat-down searches.  My hat’s off to the WA Supremes.

In State v. Garvin, the Court held that police officers cannot “squeeze” a defendant’s pockets to determine the nature of objects in the pocket.

An officer pulled Anthony Garvin over for a traffic infraction. When he noticed a knife on the seat next to Garvin, the officer ordered Garvin out of the car and conducted a search for additional weapons. In the process he discovered a baggie of methamphetamine. At trial the officer testified, “We don’t really pat anymore. It’s more of a squeeze search.”  He moved to suppress the evidence seized, and the trial court denied the motion. Garvin was convicted of possession of a controlled substance, and Court of Appeals upheld the conviction.  The WA Supreme Court granted review.

The court reasoned that the officer was not allowed to manipulate objects within the clothing, and his “squeeze method” exceeded the scope of a valid frisk under the “stop and frisk” rule articulated in Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1 (1968).  The court added, “Without probable cause and a warrant, an officer is limited in what he can do.  He cannot arrest a suspect, he cannot conduct a broad search.”

My opinion?  Yaaaay!!

Many clients get arrested because police officers obtain evidence unlawfully.  It’s an outrage!  This case is beautiful.  I can’t wait to argue a Garvin motion in my future attempts to suppress unlawfully obtained evidence.   🙂