The Washington Constitution, like the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, protects individuals against unlawful searches and seizures. Evidence obtained through an unlawful search or seizure may be excluded. Washington drug crime attorneys know that whether evidence is excluded often turns on whether the encounter between the defendant and law enforcement constituted a seizure, as seen in a recent case.
The trial court entered findings of fact based on the undisputed facts. The police received an anonymous tip that a woman with an active arrest warrant was staying in a particular room at a hotel. The hotel clerk told them the room in question was registered to a different name. The clerk told them to trespass from the hotel anyone other than the registered guest in the room.
One of the officers recognized the defendant when she answered the door of the room. She was not the woman for whom they were looking. The defendant told the officers she was the only person in the room. The clerk came to the room and told the officers the defendant was not registered to the room and asked them to trespass her from the room. The officers then told the defendant to gather her things and leave. The officers came into the room to make sure that the woman for whom they were looking was not there and that the defendant did not get a weapon. One officer asked the defendant for her driver’s license so that he could enter her name in the log, indicating she had been trespassed from the hotel, and to check for any active warrants. The system showed she had a misdemeanor warrant. The officers arrested the defendant. She had already gathered her property from the room and asked if she could return it, but she was told she could not. She stated her wallet, phone, and identification were in the purse she had, but it was not her purse, and she did not know anything about any other items in it. The purse was searched incident to her arrest, and the police found a plastic baggie containing a black, tar-like substance wrapped in a goodwill receipt. The substance subsequently tested positive for heroin.