State v. Brown

Summarized by:

  • Court: Oregon Court of Appeals
  • Area(s) of Law: Constitutional Law
  • Date Filed: 08-26-2015
  • Case #: A154630
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Lagesen, J. for the Court; Duncan, P.J.; & Flynn, J.
  • Full Text Opinion

Under Article I, section 9, of the Oregon Constitution and the Fourth Amendment, just because a defendant temporarily sets down a piece of property does not mean it is abandoned for purposes of conducting a warrantless search of that property.

Defendant was convicted for possession and delivery of methamphetamine. Leading to his arrest, Defendant sideswiped two parked vehicles without stopping, but afterward stopped at a convenience store. Defendant took a McDonald's bag into the store with him, bought a bottle of water and came out of the store, where officers were waiting. When officers asked Defendant about the hit-and-run, Defendant admitted the acts but stated he was looking for a phone to call it in. During this conversation, Defendant set his bag and water bottle down on a nearby compressor, and when the officer asked Defendant to go back across the street to his truck Defendant left the bag and bottle sitting on the compressor for 10 to 15 minutes. An officer searched the McDonald's bag and discovered methamphetamine; Defendant was subsequently arrested. At trial, Defendant moved to suppress the evidence and the trial court denied his motion. On appeal, Defendant renewed his argument below that the search of his bag was a violation of Article I, section 9 of the Oregon Constitution and of the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The Court found that whether the search violated Defendant's constitutional rights turned on whether Defendant had abandoned his possessory and privacy rights in the bag at the time of the warrantless search. The Court held that because Defendant did not indicate to the officers in any way he intended to abandon the bag, did not discard the bag in the trash or on the ground, and set the bag up carefully with his bottle of water on the compressor during the conversation with the officer, Defendant had not abandoned the property; therefore, the officer's warrantless search was in violation of Defendant's constitutional rights. The Court specified that the low value of the property is but one factor, and was not persuasive considering all facts of this case. Conviction reversed and remanded; remanded for resentencing; otherwise affirmed.

Advanced Search