The Washington State Supreme Court just threw out a cannabis possession charge because the evidence seized was “the poisonous fruits of an illegal search.”
The Court has split a hair here. I suppose that’s their job though, huh?
It starts out with this cat, Tibbles, being pulled over for a defective tail light. The trooper, Larsen, smelled cannabis in the vehicle. The troop asked Tibbles to get out of the car, which he did. Larsen searched him finding nothing. Larsen then searched the car finding a bit of cannabis and paraphernalia under the seat.
The trooper didn’t arrest Tibbles but confiscated the stuff, cited him and sent him on his way. Tibbles was charged with misdemeanor possession and the paraphernalia. In court he maintained that the search was illegal. Now the Supremes have agreed.
I know, you’re thinking about that whole “probable cause” thing. The cop smelled the pot, right? Wrong. The court says the aroma was cause to obtain a warrant but there were no exigent circumstances to justify a warrantless search.
The officer’s safety was not at risk. Tibbles was cooperative. Tibbles was outside of the vehicle so there was no risk of him destroying any evidence. Tibbles wasn’t arrested; he was sent on down the road. Time wasn’t of the essence. The officer could have secured the vehicle and called to obtain a search warrant.
From the Supreme’s conclusion, “Because the State failed to establish exigent circumstances justifying the warrantless search of Tibbles’s car, we reverse the Court of Appeals.”
I haven’t a clue what this means in the real world. Will it motivate the police to make arrests on the spot, thereby justifying a search? In some cases will people be held by the side of the road until a warrant is obtained? If an officer doesn’t believe there is a public safety issue will he\she simply not screw with it? I dunno. I suppose we’ll read about it in the papers, eh?
Oh, if you would care to read the opinion yourself clicky the linky;
(Heh, I had to go back and edit the defendant’s name. I kept writing “Tribbles.”)