State v. Barnthouse

Summarized by:

  • Court: Oregon Court of Appeals
  • Area(s) of Law: Constitutional Law
  • Date Filed: 05-20-2015
  • Case #: A153361
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Nakamoto, J. for the Court; Armstrong, P.J.; & Egan, J.
  • Full Text Opinion

Article I, Section 9 of the Oregon Constitution, the state may not use evidence obtained as a result of an unlawful seizure. An unlawful seizure occurs when there is a significant interference with an individual's possessory interest that is not authorized by warrant or justified by an exception.

The State appealed a pretrial order suppressing all evidence obtained in seizure of a parcel of Defendant’s mail (package). The State argued that because Defendant did not have a constitutional right to the package, the police could not unlawfully seize it. The Court first examined whether Defendant held a possessory interest in the package, holding that for an individual to generally have a possessory interest they must hold some form of control over the object. The Court determined that the police officers’ testimony and USPS standards contradicted the State's argument because the addressee may exercise control over a package by controlling when/how the mail is delivered. Therefore, the Court found that Defendant had a possessory interest in the package. The Court next addressed whether the removal of Defendant's package from the normal mail for investigatory purposes constituted a significant interference. The Court held that this action was a significant interference because the officers deprived Defendant of his right to control the package's course through the mail. The Court addressed the final issue of whether the police used information from an unlawful seizure to exploit consent for a search. The Court found that the officers’ intended to present the package to defendant to obtain his consent, in order to circumvent obtaining a seizure warrant. Therefore, the Court concluded that the police officers used the unlawfully acquired information to exploit consent from Defendant. Affirmed.

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