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State Supreme Court throws out drug evidence as unreasonable search

State Supreme Court throws out drug evidence as unreasonable search

Idaho Freedom Foundation staff
July 28, 2010

The Idaho Supreme Court ruled unanimously Tuesday that a police officer violated the U.S. Constitution by searching a man’s car after he was arrested when he was away from his car at a convenience store.

Parma Police Officer Christopher Cullen arrested Corey Sean Frederick outside a Jackson’s store in 2005, due to an outstanding warrant.  After handcuffing Frederick, Cullen used a drug-sniffing dog to search Frederick’s pickup truck, and found evidence of methamphetamine.  That evidence led to drug charges that Frederick pled guilty to, but he argued that the search of his car violated the U.S. Constitution’s 4th Amendment, protecting citizens from unreasonable searches.

Frederick’s constitutional claim was clarified by a 2009 U.S. Supreme Court ruling stating that police can only search someone’s vehicle if they are within reaching distance of the car when the search happens, or if the police officer could reasonably believe the vehicle contains evidence linked to the arrest.  The search of Frederick’s truck didn’t meet that constitutional standard.

Though the U.S. Supreme Court ruling came after Frederick’s arrest and guilty plea, it still applies to his case.  The Idaho Supreme Court ruled that the drug evidence should be suppressed.

In the court’s ruling, Justice Joel Horton wrote that lawyers for the state agreed that the new standard for unreasonable searches applies to Frederick, but argued that the police officer acted in good faith when performing the search, so the evidence shouldn’t be thrown out.  Horton disagreed with that argument from the state’s lawyers.

Frederick’s case was sent back to an Idaho district court.

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