Tuesday, December 8, 1998

Colorado Court of Appeals People v. Lindsey 88CA0274

Decided August 16, 1990.

   Denver PD was investigating a murder/attempt robbery/agg assault and had PC to arrest Lindsey.  Following up on a lead, they went to Lindsey's girlfriend's house (in Aurora) to ask her some questions.  During the interview the officers became suspicious that Lindsey was in the house because his girlfriend was acting like nervous buffoon, gesturing towards the back of the house, and saying that Lindsey had just left but would be back.  And also because they heard someone moving around in a closet.

   So, even though they were outside of their jurisdiction, unaccompanied by local officers, and not in fresh pursuit, they searched the house and found Lindsey.  They arrested him, he later confessed, and he was eventually convicted.  He appealed his conviction, arguing (among other things) that his confession should have been suppressed because his arrest violated Colorado law and the Fourth Amendment.

   The Court of Appeals recognized that Lindsey's arrest was made in violation of Colorado law.  C.R.S. 16-3-106 authorizes the police to make arrests either within their territorial jurisdiction or outside of it when in fresh pursuit (meaning the continuous and uninterrupted pursuit of a suspect without unnecessary delay after the commission of an offense).  Since there was no fresh pursuit here, the Denver officers would have needed to be accompanied by Aurora officers in order to comply with the statute.  That said, this sort of conduct doesn't require suppression unless the violation is willful or so egregious that it violates the suspect's Constitutional rights.

   In this case, the record shows that the police really were there to investigate rather than make an arrest (since they just brought two cops, and entered the house without drawing their guns and only after receiving consent to enter.  Hardly what one does when arresting a murder suspect).  So the violation was not willful.  Further, when the police became aware that the suspect was hiding on premises where they were lawfully present, the exigency of preventing his flight justified making the arrest.  So although the court agrees that they "technically violated the statute," the arrest was justified for Fourth Amendment purposes.

   The court also discusses the requirements for making warrantless arrests inside the home.  It says these do not violate the Fourth Amendment when justified by PC and exigent circumstances, or when justified by PC and consent to enter & search the premises.

   For those who are interested, there's also some discussion of testimonial privilege, evidence of other acts, and a defendant's right not to take the stand.  None of it really matters for the purposes of this blog, though.  Lindsey's conviction was affirmed.

Friday, December 4, 1998

US Supreme Court Florida v. Wells 88-1835

Decided April 18, 1990

   Wells was arrested for DUI, and during an inventory of his car, impound employees (acting on behalf of the police) found a lot of marijuana in a suitcase in the trunk.  Probably not the best time to be driving drunk, but whatever.

   Wells moved to suppress the marijuana, arguing that the inventory had violated the Fourth Amendment.  The court denied the motion, and he appealed.  The appellate court sided with Wells, saying that an agency should have a policy which requires closed containers to be opened or not during an inventory.

   The US Supreme Court held that the purpose of an inventory is to protect the property owner from loss or damage, and to protect the police from dangerous items which might be included in property under their control.  Notably missing from that list is the discovery of evidence (inventories are not conducted for that purpose, although evidence found during an inventory can still be used in court under the plain view doctrine).  In order to protect the actual purpose of the inventory instead of allowing it to become an excuse to search for incriminating evidence, the court deemed it necessary to require police agencies to have a policy which spells out the parameters of any given inventory.  That said, the policy can still afford for individual discretion when it comes to which containers will or will not be opened, as long as there is a policy.

   Since the Florida Highway Patrol didn't have such a policy, the marijuana in this case was suppressed.