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Another Circuit Court Victory – Suppressed Evidence Leads to Dismissal


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Summary: Komorn Law has won another case in Circuit Court. The Judge suppressed the 26 pounds  of marijuana of evidence seized following a traffic stop and then lead to the dismissal of the case. The police conducted an unlawful  inventory  search,  contrary to the police department’s established procedures.

Michael  A.  Komorn  and  Alyssa  L. McCormick  won  suppression  of evidence  in  the  56A Judicial District  Court  on  an  inventory  search / People v.  Toohey  (438  Mich.  265;  475 N.W.  2d  16 (1991)) issue.

Circuit  Court  Opinion of  the  Month: Unlawful  Inventory  Search The  Honorable  Julie  A.  O’Neill,  of  the  56A Judicial  District  Court,  in  May  suppressed  evidence seized following  a  traffic  stop and then  dismissed the case.

Judge  O’Neill  found that  police  conducted an unlawful  inventory  search,  contrary  to  the  police department’s  established procedures,  and,  pursuant to  People v.  Toohey,  438  Mich.  265;  475 N.W.2d  16 (1991),  the  improperly  seized  evidence  had  to  be suppressed.

Once  the  evidence  was  suppressed,  there was  no  evidence  to  support  bindover  to  circuit  court, so  the  case  was dismissed. The defendant  was  stopped  by  Potterville Police Chief  Barry  for  speeding  and  improper  use  of  a  turn signal.  The  defendant  did  not  have  on  his  person  his driver’s  license,  but  subsequent  investigation revealed that  the  defendant  was  properly  licensed and had no  outstanding  warrants.

Chief Barry,  upon approaching  the  pickup  truck,  saw  a black  plastic trash  bag  on  the  passenger  seat;  the  Chief,  who  later testified  he  could  smell  marijuana,  asked  the  driver multiple  times  about  the  contents  of  the  bag;  the defendant  replied that  it  was  trash.

The defendant also replied  that  he  had  some  marijuana wax  in  his possession.  Backup arrived, and the  defendant  was told  to  exit  the  vehicle;  he  complied  and  then  locked it.  He consented to a search of his person but declined a request by  police  to  search  the  truck.

The driver  was  handcuffed and placed into  the  Chief’s vehicle.  Officers  looked through  the  windows  of the pickup and noticed another  plastic  trash  bag  in  the behind  the  seats,  as  well as  a smaller  plastic  bag with  a leafy,  green  substance  visible.

The  Chief called  a prosecutor,  who  advised that  an  arrest  could be  made  for  the  misdemeanor  of not  having  a  license in  his  possession.  The driver  was  arrested.  Later, 6 Criminal  Defense Newsletter   June  2021 during  a  search  of the  pickup truck,  just  over  26 pounds  of marijuana  was  found.

The  defendant  challenged the  arrest  as  illegal because,  he  argued,  he  constructively  possessed his license.  His  wife  was  able  to  text  a  photo  of  the license,  which  Chief  Barry  was  able  to  observe.

Judge  O’Neill rejected  that  argument  and  held  that the  statute,  M.C.L.  257.311,  expressly  requires a driver  to have an  operator’s  license “in  his  or  her immediate  possession  at  all times.”

The  defendant  also  challenged the  inventory search  as  illegal,  and  Judge  O’Neill,  as  noted  above, agreed.  The Toohey  case  requires  that  inventory searches  be conducted “in  accordance  with established  departmental  procedures  …  and  must Reports  and  Studies not  be  used  as  a pretext  for  criminal investigation.”

Judge O’Neill  rejected  the  prosecution  arguments, which  included  that  police  had  probable  cause  to search  due  to  either  plain-view  or  the automobile exception.

The  defendant  was  represented by  Michael  A. Komorn;  the  opinion  in  People  v.  Michael Anthony Gonzalez,  56A  Judicial District  Court  No.  20-111-FY.

The post Another Circuit Court Victory – Suppressed Evidence Leads to Dismissal appeared first on Komorn Law.

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