Washington drug cases often turn on the legality of the search that found the evidence. Both the federal and Washington state constitutions provide protection from unreasonable searches and seizures. Generally, searches must be conducted under a lawful warrant, unless an exception applies. A man recently successfully challenged his conviction on the grounds the trial court erred in applying the Terry and community care taking exceptions to the search that found the evidence used against him.
A Starbucks employee called 911 for assistance removing a sleeping person from the store. According to the court’s opinion, the officer tried to wake the defendant, but he was unresponsive. The officer started to suspect the defendant was under the influence of drugs. He noticed a metal utensil partially sticking out of the defendant’s pocket. He was concerned it was a knife, needle, or other sharp object. He took it out of the defendant’s pocket and found it was a cook spoon with a dark brown residue and burn marks. The officer determined he had probable cause for an arrest and kept searching, finding drugs and other drug paraphernalia.
The officer then performed a “hard sternum rub” to wake the defendant. He told the defendant he was under arrest, handcuffed him, and took him to an aid car.