|September 14, 2006|
|Case decided September 14, 2006|
The full text of these opinions can be found at http://www.publications.ojd.state.or.us
State of Oregon v. Erikia Marie Thompkin, (TC 0105-33237)
(CA A116637) (SC S51405)
On review from the Court of Appeals in an appeal from Multnomah County Circuit Court, Janice R. Wilson, Judge. 192 Or App 364, 87 P3d 709 (2004). The decision of the Court of Appeals is reversed. The judgment of the circuit court is reversed, and the case is remanded to the circuit court for further proceedings. Opinion of the Court by Justice R. William Riggs. Justice W. Michael Gillette dissented and filed an opinion in which Justice Robert D. Durham joined.
Today, the Oregon Supreme Court held that police officers' interaction with an automobile passenger constituted an unlawful seizure under Article I, section 9, of the Oregon Constitution. The Court further held that the state had failed to prove that the discovery of evidence during that seizure was sufficiently independent of the preceding violation of defendant's rights and, therefore, the evidence must be suppressed.
In 2001, Portland Police Officers Hill and Reagan initiated a traffic stop of a vehicle, in which defendant was the front-seat passenger. Hill approached the driver's side of the vehicle, while Reagan approached defendant on the passenger's side. Hill spoke to the driver regarding the reason for the traffic stop and asked for identification from both the driver and defendant, which they provided. Hill then returned to the police vehicle to run a records check on the information from each piece of identification. During that time, Reagan remained on the passenger side of the vehicle and asked defendant if she had any drugs or weapons on her person. In response to that question, defendant removed a crack pipe from her pocket and handed it to Reagan.
After Hill returned from running the records checks on the driver and defendant, Reagan informed Hill of the crack pipe that he had obtained from defendant. Hill then requested that defendant step out of the vehicle and asked her if she would submit to a search. Defendant got out of the vehicle and complied with Hill's request to search her person. During the course of that search, Hill discovered a substance that he believed to be consistent with crack cocaine. Hill then took defendant into custody and advised her of her Miranda rights. A subsequent lab report confirmed that the substance was cocaine and that the pipe contained cocaine residue. The state charged defendant with possession of cocaine. Before trial, defendant moved to suppress the evidence of the pipe and the cocaine on grounds that the officers had seized that evidence without statutory authorization and in violation of her state and federal constitutional rights.
The trial court concluded that the officers had not detained defendant unlawfully by taking her identification and that defendant voluntarily had surrendered the crack pipe. As a result, the trial court denied defendant's motion to suppress the evidence of the crack pipe and cocaine. Following a trial on stipulated facts, the trial court found defendant guilty of the charged offense, and defendant appealed. The Court of Appeals affirmed defendant's conviction from the bench. Defendant petitioned for review.
In an opinion authored by Justice R. William Riggs, the Supreme Court held that defendant was unlawfully seized under Article I, section 9, because, under the totality of the circumstances, her liberty of movement was significantly restrained when Hill requested and retained her identification to conduct a records check without a reasonable suspicion of criminal activity. The Court further held that the evidence obtained during the unlawful seizure of defendant must be suppressed. Given the close temporal proximity between the illegal seizure of defendant and her surrender of the crack pipe, as well as the absence of any intervening circumstances or other circumstances mitigating the effect of the unlawful police conduct, the Court concluded that the state had failed to prove that defendant's decision to surrender the incriminating evidence, even if voluntary, was not the product of the preceding violation of her rights under Article I, section 9. Accordingly, the Court reversed the decision of the Court of Appeals and the judgment of the circuit court and remanded to the circuit court for further proceedings.
In a separate opinion, Justice W. Michael Gillette dissented. Justice Gillette disagreed with the majority's line of analysis, which he believes does not give constitutional significance to Thompkin's non-coerced consent. Justice Gillette was joined in that dissent by Justice Robert D. Durham.
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