Interviewer: Have you handled any cases where there have been illegal searches and seizures?
David Horan: There have been a variety of issues with respect to illegal searches and seizures. To give you an example, four males are driving in a car. The owner of the car is the girlfriend of one of the occupants, who is not there. The girlfriend is not driving because her license is under suspension.
The police are using a laser that can read license plates and it’s hooked up to their computer, so when they read the license plate of this car coming along, it identifies the woman that the car’s registered to and identifies her as being under suspension. So at that point they assume she must be driving, and they stop the vehicle.
This is an issue as to whether that’s a legitimate stop or not.
How Long Can Law Enforcement Detain an Individual?
There are several different Supreme Court opinions with respect to the extent and legal limits, as to how long a police person can hold and detain someone for investigation. For example, a client weaved out of his driving lane and then pulled off to the side of the road. A state trooper pulls up and sees what’s going on. The client explains that, “I got a text message. I looked at it and then decided I should pull off to the side of the road to actually answer it.”
It’s a legitimate reason to pull off the side of the road. It also explains the weaving, the brief weave and the pulling over. Then at that point, the trooper says, “I still need your license and registration.” He goes back to his car, call it in to see if there’s a warrant out for the driver. There isn’t. He then walks back to his car and as he handing the registration and license to the driver, he thinks, “Wait a minute. I smell something here.”
The driver has been told he’s free to leave except that he wanted to run a license check on him. At that point, the police decide to detain him longer to find out what the smell is emanating from the car. It’s not something that belongs in the car and the next thing you know, he’s arrested. An argument can be made, but that’s an illegal detention.
Illegal Stops and Illegal Detentions Can Result in Dismissals of the Charges
So in the first one, it’s an illegal stop and the second one, it’s an illegal detention. The person can be detained only long enough to explain away or conclude to address the reason for the stop. This is an illegal detention at that point and that case is subject to a successful motion to suppress and results in the case being dismissed.
There are dozens of scenarios that one could map out with respect to arguably illegal searches and arguably illegal stops.
Drug-Related Case History
Interviewer: Are there any particular drug-related case you would like to share with us?
David Horan: My favorite victory is a victory of sorts and I’ve done this several times. My client starts to dabble with drugs. The client is a good person and has a decent job. Drugs are expensive. Drugs are addictive. The client then, in order to generate the money to buy more drugs, starts to sell drugs.
The client at that point gets set up by somebody and gets arrested and gets charged with sale of drugs. The client, at that point, doesn’t have adequate resources to have bail posted because he spent so much money on the drugs and ends up spending some time in jail.