Michigan Court Upholds Trial Court’s Ruling in Drug Case, Suppressing Incriminating Evidence

In a recent opinion from a Michigan court involving drug possession, the prosecution asked for the court to reconsider its previous order allowing the defendant to suppress incriminating evidence against him. The defendant had filed a motion to suppress evidence and dismiss charges of possession of a controlled substance less than 25 grams and possession of marijuana. The trial court agreed with the defendant that the drugs should not be used as evidence against him, as the police officer that looked in his car had not followed the correct departmental protocols while conducting the search. The higher court in Michigan agreed, emphasizing that it is important for officers to follow the correct protocols when searching a person or a vehicle.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, in September 2018, a police officer in Detroit was patrolling the city by car when he saw the defendant run a red light. The officer stopped the vehicle and began speaking with the defendant, learning in the process that the defendant did not have a driver’s license and that he did not have insurance for the vehicle he was driving. The officer patted the defendant down and found several lottery tickets in the defendant’s pocket. Searching the car, he found four folded lottery tickets with heroin under the vehicle’s headliner. After making this discovery, the officer searched the defendant again and found a bag of marijuana and a bag of heroin on his person. Once the defendant was charged for drug possession, he filed a motion to suppress the evidence found during the officer’s search. The court granted the defendant’s motion, and the prosecution later appealed, asking the court to allow the evidence to be considered in determining whether or not the defendant was guilty.

The Decision

In filing the motion to suppress, the defendant argued that the officer should have followed protocol by filling out something called an “inventory card” because he was taking an “inventory search” of the vehicle. In its appeal, the prosecution argued that the search was conducted according to departmental policy and that the officer had every right to search the defendant’s vehicle without filling out the inventory card.

The court agreed with the defendant and decided to keep evidence of drugs suppressed. The court decided that when the officer conducted his search, he was not taking part in a criminal investigation, but instead just taking “inventory” of the defendant’s vehicle. Because the motive in the officer’s search was purely for this general “inventory” purpose, the officer should, indeed, have filled out an inventory card before beginning the search. This card was part of departmental procedures, and it was not in alignment with these procedures for the officer to conduct this kind of search without checking the appropriate boxes. The court thus kept the evidence of drugs suppressed, and the defendant’s charges remained dismissed.

Have You Been Unfairly Searched by a Police Officer in Michigan?

If you have been approached, searched, and arrested by a police officer, there may be defenses you can raise to keep the prosecution from admitting evidence recovered during your arrest. At Michigan Defense Law, our team of criminal defense attorneys is ready to explore your options with you and offer you the best legal protection possible. With over twenty years of experience defending good people who have been accused of all types of Michigan crimes, and we know the law and we can help you obtain the best possible outcome in your case. For a free consultation, call us at 248-451-2200.

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