State v. Barnthouse

Summarized by:

  • Court: Oregon Supreme Court
  • Area(s) of Law: Constitutional Law
  • Date Filed: 10-06-2016
  • Case #: S063426
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Brewer, J. for the Court; Balmer, C.J; Kistler; Walters; Landau; Baldwin, JJ.; & DeHoog, J. pro tempore.
  • Full Text Opinion

Under Article I, section 9, a person has a protected possessory interest in property even though he cannot assert control over it; that is, even though the person does not have actual or constructive possession of the property.

The State appealed the Court of Appeals decision affirming the trial court’s grant of Defendant’s motion to suppress evidence officers obtained from two consent searches. Defendant argued, both at trial and on appeal, that officers unlawfully seized a parcel of mail that was addressed to Defendant during a routine drug interdiction at the USPS sorting facility in violation of Article I, section 9, and that officers unlawfully exploited the seizure of the package to gain Defendant’s consent to search the parcel and his bedroom. The State argued that the trial court erred because: (1) Defendant did not have a constitutionally protected possessory interest in the parcel while it was in the stream of mail, (2) that even if Defendant did have possessory interest in the parcel officers did not significantly interfere with that interest to effect a seizure under Art. I sec. 9, and (3) because police may seize a person based on reasonable suspicion of criminal activity without violating Art. I, sec. 9, that seizures of property should be held to the same standard. The Court extended the reasoning of State v. Juarez-Godinez, 326 Or 1, 942 P2d 722 (1997) to hold that a person may have a protected possessory interest in property even though he does not actually or constructively possess it. In this case, Defendant-addressee had a protected possessory interest in the parcel while it was in the stream of mail. The Court further held that because officers had physical control of the package and curtailed the delivery of the package to Defendant, the trial court did not err in concluding that the officers significantly interfered with Defendant’s possessory interest, and therefore seized the package. The Court did not address the State’s third argument, whether that seizure was reasonable, as it was unpreserved below. The decision of the Court of Appeals and the judgment of the circuit court are affirmed.

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