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LEGAL BRIEFS: Search and Seizure: Two Cases Preserve Rights, One Restricts Them

The Oregon Court of Appeals overturned two convictions because of police actions relating to unlawful search and seizure. Unfortunately, in another recent proceeding the US Supreme Court narrowed protection from unwarranted searches.

In a Yamhill County case, the court said police violated the defendant's right to be free from unlawful search and seizure as guaranteed by the Oregon Constitution. The police were called to a house hosting a sale where a man was passed out in one of the rooms. The man was surrounded by paraphernalia such as hypodermic needles and white rocks that looked like drugs. The police arrested him and continued to look around the house, discovering and arresting a woman who was in bed with drugs nearby. The court said the officers exceeded their authority by opening the bedroom door. While the house was open to the public, it was not open to the police (Oregonlive, January 24).

In a Portland case, the court threw out the conviction of a woman arrested for prostitution when all she had been doing was "walking down 82nd Avenue and glancing over her shoulder." The Court found the police did not have probable cause for an arrest, determining they violated the defendant's right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure (Oregonian, January 3). One officer involved in this arrest, Heath Kula, was also involved in the 2007 improper arrest of a Portland Community College writing instructor, mistaking her innocent gestures for prostitution on 82nd Ave (PPR #45). Prosecutors dropped the case and the writing instructor was awarded $5000 in a settlement with the city.

In February, the US Supreme Court issued a ruling in favor of law enforcement. The case Fernandez v. California involved an LAPD search of a home without a warrant. One of the two residents, Walter Fernandez, denied the police entry. The police arrested him on domestic violence charges because they noticed his girlfriend was recently injured. While he was in custody, the police returned and gained permission to enter from Fernandez's girlfriend. The police found evidence tying Fernandez to a robbery. By a 6-3 vote, the court upheld the LAPD's actions because one of the residents allowed the police to conduct a search even though another one had refused. Justice Ginsburg, writing for the minority, "accused the majority of weakening the Fourth Amendment" (Reason.com, February 25).

  People's Police Report

May, 2014
Also in PPR #62

Two PPB Shootings Result
  In Death And Injury

DOJ Lawsuit Recieves
  Community Input

Inadequate Changes To
  Oversight System Approved

Updates PPR 62
  • JTTF Report Raises Questions
  • Warentless Wiretaps Challenged
  • Secrecy at Training Council
CRC Expands to 11 Members;
  Hears 4 Cases

Stop And Frisk Comes to Portland
Prosper Portland's War
  on Homeless

Recent Rulings on
  Search and Seizure

Quick Flashes
  • Other Copwatching Groups
  • Two Cops Arrested
  • PPB Handcuffs Nine Year Old
Police Shootings Around Oregon

Rapping Back

Portland Copwatch
PO Box 42456
Portland, OR 97242
(503) 236-3065/ Incident Report Line (503) 321-5120
e-mail: copwatch@portlandcopwatch.org

Portland Copwatch is a grassroots, volunteer organization promoting police accountability through citizen action.

People's Police Report #62 Table of Contents
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