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Vancouver Washington Criminal Defense Blog

Can police direct utility others to conduct a warrantless search?

In the previous two posts, we discussed the intricacies of the constitutional protections that are guaranteed by the warrant requirement. A signed search warrant is not necessarily a final legal decision. In fact, the adversarial process of trial may be a vital safeguard if your criminal defense attorney has the skills to fully review the history of the investigation to find flaws in police procedures.

Members of law enforcement often use statements from individuals to gather evidence and support probable cause for a search. However, can police direct a civilian to conduct a warrantless search to gain probable cause for a warrant?

Robbery case motion to dismiss, granted by the court

On February 8, 2019, Mr. Thayer obtained dismissal of a first-degree robbery case in the Clark County Superior Court. The case arose out of a road rage incident. The defendant grabbed the phone out of the alleged victim's hand and threw it on the ground, before leaving the scene. In order to prove a charge of robbery, the State is required to prove specific intent to steal, which is the equivalent of intent to deprive the victim of her property permanently. Mr. Thayer moved to dismiss on a pretrial motion because the fact that the defendant left the phone at the scene proved that he did not have intent to permanently deprive. The court agreed, and granted the motion.

Are There Exceptions To The Warrant Requirement?

The Fourth Amendment provides protection against government overreach when law enforcement searches for evidence of a crime. The home and its immediate surroundings, often described as the curtilage of the home, are given strong protections under the warrant requirement. In most situations, law enforcement is required to obtain a warrant based upon a showing of probable cause in order to lawfully conduct a search. The courts, however, recognize several exceptions to the warrant requirement, including:

Where is the evidence to support probable cause?

We recently discussed whether a signed warrant could be challenged in court. That story related to a federal appellate decision. Constitutional guarantees against unreasonable searches and seizures is strong in Washington state courts, as well as federal courts. Take for instance the case of State v. Kelley, 762 P.2d 20 (Wn. App. 1988). In that case, attorney Steven W. Thayer challenged the validity of a warrant to successfully defend against several counts of drug charges and an associated allegation involving unlawfully obtained electricity.

The information submitted in support of the search warrant

Can a search warrant be challenged in court?

Many people may understand that police generally need to have a warrant to search a home. There are some exceptions to that rule. But, if members of law enforcement have a signed warrant to conduct a search, does that mean that the search is constitutional? The answer to that question requires the full analysis of the individual facts of the event. Police generally must provide sufficient information to a judicial officer to support probable cause for a search to obtain a valid warrant. Members of law enforcement, and judicial officers, can make mistakes related to the issuance of a warrant.

The Need For Particularized Information In A Search Warrant

Necessity defense wins DUI case

Over the last 40 years Steve and Jacy Thayer have tried and won just about every kind of DUI case imaginable. Most cases, of course, are resolved by negotiating a reduction in charge. The negotiating objective in most cases is a reduction to negligent driving, which can save a license suspension and jail time, in addition to the stigma of a DUI conviction. Many other cases are resolved on pre-trial motions to suppress evidence or for dismissal. But the most memorable cases are always the ones that get tried.

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