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  1. #1
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    Default Can an Officer Search Your Belongings if it Looked Like You Were Hiding Something

    My question involves police conduct in the State of: Montana

    The police report the officer states that the reason he became suspicious is because when he was stopping us I had my head down & it appeared I was hiding something from him under the seat. I wasn't trying to hide anything & in fact forgot about the paraphernalia in my purse until he had my purse in his hand & said he was going to search it, then I remembered & verbally refused him to dig in it. He said that when he talked to my bf that he was extremely nervous, talking very fast, speech mumbled & bloodshot eyes. If you knew my bf you would find that he is not good at all at talking to any kind of authority figures & actually starts to sweat when doing so, even with Dr.'s.
    If I actually was trying to hide something I certainly wouldn't hide it in my own purse, to incriminate myself & have the purse by my feet or even admit the purse was mine. If I wanted to hide something in a vehicle it would be in a common area where the police can't pinpoint me as the owner, or anyone for that matter. We go to court next week & I need advice

    If you think of similar case please let me know so I can look at it

  2. #2
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    Jan 2006
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    Default Re: Cop's Observation's Were Wrong and Health Issues Explain All

    You might start by describing what actually happened, from the beginning. So far you have t provided any real information from which to ascertain why you are even here asking questions

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Cop's Observation's Were Wrong and Health Issues Explain All

    Quote Quoting Jeaninerenz
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    We go to court next week & I need advice
    Get an attorney to represent you.

  4. #4
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    Oct 2014
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    Default Re: Cop's Observation's Were Wrong and Health Issues Explain All

    Quote Quoting Jeaninerenz
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    If I actually was trying to hide something I certainly wouldn't hide it in my own purse, to incriminate myself & have the purse by my feet or even admit the purse was mine. If I wanted to hide something in a vehicle it would be in a common area where the police can't pinpoint me as the owner, or anyone for that matter. We go to court next week & I need advice
    I have a couple of comments. First, framing your defense as “if I was really trying to hide something I wouldn't have put it ___________” isn’t a good one. Drug users hide their drugs in every place you can think of, and they don’t always use the best common sense when doing it because the drugs they take alter their ability to think. Second, it isn’t ownership of the drugs that matters, it is possession of the drugs. And under the case law of many states, if you knew the drugs were in a certain spot and had access to it you are considered in possession of the drugs. So hiding the drugs in a common area of the car often has the result that everyone in the car that could reach the drugs is potentially in possession of them. The state doesn’t have to prove ownership; it’s the ability to access the drugs that matters. This is why if you don’t do drugs you don’t want to get into a car with someone whom you know does do drugs. If they have the drugs someplace in the common area of the car you may go down for possession along with the drug user.

    Whether you might have some basis to challenge the search the cop did and thus suppress the evidence is impossible to tell from the facts you posted. You need to get an attorney to advise you on that. The ideal thing for the future is for you to give up doing the drugs. But at the very least don’t carry your drugs and drug supplies in the car. The most common way drug users get busted is in a traffic stop.

  5. #5
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    Sep 2017
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    Default Re: Cop's Observation's Were Wrong and Health Issues Explain All

    OK I & my bf were coming home from the store at about 1:30 pm and were pulled over for no turn signal. As I said, I was playing a game on my phone & didn't think much of it so wasn't too concerned because we knew it had to be because he didn't use the turn signal as the fuse went out the day before. Neither of us were on drugs, he smokes marijuana sometimes but not that day & the drug paraphernalia that was in my purse was a small one hitter marijuana pipe that he stuck in there a couple of days before & I forgot all about it. The officer stated in his report that " the passenger had her head down & it appeared to me that she was hiding something as I was stopping them" & because my bf has Parkinson's disease his hands shake uncontrollably & as I said, authority figures make him nervous even when he's got nothing to be nervous about. He also has other major medical problems & is 61 years old. So because he was acting nervous & shaky hands the officer said he believed him to be under the influence of drugs & made him do 4 field sobriety tests which he failed, oh yeah I forgot to mention that he uses a cane too because of his arthritis in his knees. After failing the tests the officer tells him he's going to search vehicle & comes & makes me get out, by this time I'm angry because I know I wasn't hiding anything , that we weren't high & my bf was in pain from the tests then I refuse to give my consent to searching my purse I forgot all about the pipe until he had my purse open. So I get charged for drug paraphernalia & my bf for DUI & was taken to the hospital to draw blood for toxicology. We got the results back & only THC was found, which was 3.1 ng & the legal limit is 5 ng. My question is since we have Dr. documentation on his physical limitations to show why he couldnt physically perform field sobriety tests and lab report to show he wasn't under the influence, would that be enough to get my charges dismissed on the grounds of an illegal search since his observations were wrong in him thinking we were high to warrant probable cause?

  6. #6
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    Oct 2014
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    Default Re: Cop's Observation's Were Wrong and Health Issues Explain All

    Quote Quoting Jeaninerenz
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    My question is since we have Dr. documentation on his physical limitations to show why he couldnt physically perform field sobriety tests and lab report to show he wasn't under the influence, would that be enough to get my charges dismissed on the grounds of an illegal search since his observations were wrong in him thinking we were high to warrant probable cause?
    No. The way it works is that the officer needed reasonable suspicion to stop the car. The blown turn signal would have provided that. The officer then proceeds with the traffic stop but if while doing that he sees indications that the driver may be intoxicated with drugs or alcohol then he may investigate that further. From the officer’s perspective if your boyfriend’s physical conditions appeared to be signs of drug intoxication and he shows signs of impairment that would provide probable cause for the DUI arrest and to take him in for the blood draw. The fact that it turned out that it actually the Parkinson’s that caused your boyfriend’s physical reactions does not invalidate the arrest because the cop had no way of knowing that at the time (and no, he doesn’t have to believe the suspect as suspects can, and do, sometimes lie about that sort of thing). If the results of the blood test are do not support that your boyfriend was intoxicated then he may get the DUI case tossed out. But that doesn’t mean his arrest wasn’t good.

    Now we turn to the search of your purse. You were evidently the passenger in the car. So the DUI arrest of your boyfriend is separate from what happens to you. Generally the rule is that the police need a warrant to conduct a search. But there are few exceptions to that. The officer is allowed to do a limited search of you (e.g. your pockets, etc) during the stop to make sure you are not armed with something that might be a danger to him. But that search would not extend to your purse. The officer can merely make sure the purse is out of your reach during the stop so that you cannot do him any harm with it or what may be inside it. Another exception allows for searches of the arrested person incident to arrest, but you weren’t the one arrested for the DUI. Even if you had, the search of purse would not have revealed any information related to the DUI and thus the search likely would not have been good under that exception. As the Montana Supreme Court explained:

    Appellant was arrested on outstanding city warrants for acts unrelated to the stop of the motor vehicle and the arrest of the driver. None of the four purposes set forth in § 46–5–102, MCA, which permit a warrantless search of the area within the arrestee's immediate presence is applicable. Searching appellant's purse would not have protected the arresting officer; would not have prevented appellant from escaping; would not have resulted in discovering fruits of the crimes which resulted in the city warrants; and would not have resulted in the discovery of anything which may have been used in the commission of the offenses which resulted in the city warrants. Consequently, evidence gathered as a result of the warrantless search of appellant's purse should have been suppressed.

    State v. Graham, 271 Mont. 510, 513, 898 P.2d 1206, 1208 (1995). So you may well have a good basis to seek to get the search of your purse suppressed and once the search is suppressed the case would likely get dismissed. But you’ll need to discuss this with an attorney; there may be other facts involved that would make the search legal that you have not mentioned here. And if the search was not good, you’ll need an attorney to file the motion to suppress to make sure it is done correctly.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Can an Officer Search Your Belongings if it Looked Like You Were Hiding Something

    Would his statement that it appeared to him that I was trying to hide something under the seat, (& he found my purse on the floor by my feet where I set it when I first got in the truck) be probable cause for him to search the vehicle & my purse?

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Can an Officer Search Your Belongings if it Looked Like You Were Hiding Something

    Quote Quoting Jeaninerenz
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    Would his statement that it appeared to him that I was trying to hide something under the seat, (& he found my purse on the floor by my feet where I set it when I first got in the truck) be probable cause for him to search the vehicle & my purse?
    It would not provide probable cause to search the truck, but the cop likely had the right to search the vehicle anyway based on the arrest of your boyfriend for the DUI. It might provide probable cause to search the purse, but even if it does there is the question of whether the cop needed to get a warrant first since you did not consent to the search. And the cop may indeed have needed a warrant for that.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Can an Officer Search Your Belongings if it Looked Like You Were Hiding Something

    Before i even remembered what i had in my purse, I verbally stressed to the cop that I wasn't giving him permission to search my purse & he said he didn't need my permission. Also, neither of us were actually handcuffed & arrested, the cop gave us both tickets with the date we needed to be in court & left me at the truck while he took my bf to the hospital for blood sample & after he collected that, left him there. Don't know if that makes a difference but I thought it strange that we weren't taken to jail.

  10. #10
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    Oct 2014
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    Default Re: Can an Officer Search Your Belongings if it Looked Like You Were Hiding Something

    Since the only evidence found in the searches was in your purse, all that matters for the searches is whether the search of the purse was legal. It may not have been. The officer may have needed a warrant before he could do the search. See a lawyer for help with the charges you face. Perhaps you can get the search of your purse suppressed.

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