22 January 2005

Pick Up Your Jacket

I'm researching a 4th Amendment issue and ran across this gem:
[While searching a room for a rifle], an officer picked up Grant's jacket and noticed it was unusually heavy and contained a large bulge in one pocket. Fearing it was the weapon, the officer unzipped the pocket and discovered the crack cocaine Brown intended to sell. In an effort to determine the owner of the jacket, the officer told the couple to get their personal belongings out of the room. In picking up their stuff, Brown told Grant numerous times to get her jacket from the officer. She denied it was her jacket, and the couple left the room leaving the jacket with the officer. The officer arrested the couple for possession of the crack cocaine.
State v. Grant, 614 N.W.2d 848 (Iowa App. 04/28/2000).

Because, as we all know, crack cocaine in plastic baggies feels exactly like a rifle.


TWM said...

Hmmm, depends on the jacket and how it was laid out on the couch. Was it a long jacket? Could the rifle have been folded within the jacket? Could it have been covered by the jacket? It would not be the first time someone has folded a coat or jacket around a long gun to hide it, so I can see the officer being able to articulate why he picked it up in the first place.

As to crack cocaine in plastic baggies feeling like a rifle - well, that is not the issue.

If the officer picked up the jacket to see if the rifle was hidden by it, and THEN noted something heavy in the pocket - perhaps a hand gun - he could certainly articulate that he searched the pocket to make sure a weapon (besides the rifle) was not in there.

I sure would give it a try.

That Lawyer Dude said...

Take look at this one: People v. Peart 230 A.D.2d 922, 646 N.Y.S.2d 875a They "thought" a baseball cap was a handgun. The procedural history of this case is also sad. The trial lawyer was forbidden by the trial court to challenge the search because the court wanted to get the trial underway. The first appeal in the case was to get the suppression hearing (post conviction) while the client, (a youthful offender) sat in jail (first offense.)
During the appeal, the government assured the court that they were not arguing that the search was conducted because the police thought the cap felt like a gun. Of course at the supression hearing they argued they thought the cap was a gun!! These guys will say anything to justify their behavior.
I get tired of so called "law and order" guys telling me that police cannot play by the rules and if they do the streets will be ruled by thugs. That is basically an "ends justify the means" argument. I am all for law and order but let it be real. IF one is really "Law and Order" then it seems to me that the thing to do is to at least require the government to play by the rules they write. After all, are we really at a point were we think we are being moral if we argue that the ends justify the means??
I argued the Peart case on appeal,(both times) and it was a phyric victory. The kid finished his whole jail sentence before the appeals were decided. Some 2 plus years because of the mandatory minimum. Who compensates this kid for not getting his last 3 years of education, for being away from his family?
There is a real violation when government is allowed to violate its own rules, however there is no real remedy. Defense attorneys are always seen as the guys who are hurting the fabric of our society. They say we "protect the criminal." Its drival. We protect society from itself.
I cannot think of too many people who want a lawless society, but I hear from far too many people that think that when the police break the law if is no harm no foul. A government that will not follow its own rules cannot be trusted. It begins that they are banging away at people none of us like...but it ends up coming for us all.
Given its power and potential for evil as well as good, keeping government in check is an important job for the public as a whole. Otherwise the government is no longer of and by the people it rules, rather it is nothing more than a gang of thugs that will do whatever it must to perpetuate itself. If we think we can be anything else under those circumstances we should just view any other society from the Spartens to the Nazis to understand the fallacy of such thought.

Ken Lammers said...


The people in the room id'ed the rifle as being at the bed and it was found under the bed. It seems unlikely that the jacket was on top of the bed as that is where the people in the room were sleeping when the police came in. As well, the case doesn't give the location of the jacket so I doubt it was in the vicinity of where the police were told the firearm was located (if it had been I would have expected it to be so much of the argument that the court would mention it).

The argument was over whether the homeowner's agreement to allow a search extended to the jacket of a guest and whether she abandoned the jacket when she refused to take it from the officer. The court said neither was sufficient to allow a search of the jacket.