Facts: Petitioner Randall Patton was charged with unlawful possession of a controlled substance as a result of sheriff’s deputies attempt to effectuate an arrest warrant for Patton while he stood in his driveway next to his parked car with his head in the window. When the deputy told Patton he was under arrest, Patton fled from the car into his home, where several law enforcement officers physically detained him. They subsequently searched the car and found a bag of methamphetamine. Patton moved to suppress the evidence the officers found in their search, and the Superior Court for Snohomish County granted Patton’s motion, finding the search invalid as a search incident to arrest because the police did not physically detain Patton while he stood next to his car. The State appealed, and the Court of Appeals reversed, finding that the search of Patton’s car was valid incident to his arrest. The Supreme Court of Washington granted Patton’s petition for review.
Question(s): Was Patton’s arrested within his residence or when he was physically next to his car?
Does the officer’s subsequent search of Patton’s car fall within the narrow incident to arrest exceptions to an unwarranted search of Washington Constitution Art. I, Sect. 7?
Conclusion: Justice Stephens’ opinion for the Court reversed the decision of the Court of Appeals, concluding first that Patton was under arrest while he stood next to his car. However, the warrantless search of the car could not be justified as a search incident to a lawful arrest where there did not exist a nexus between Patton, the vehicle, and the crime for which he was arrested that would implicate safety concerns or a concern for the destruction of evidence of that crime of arrest. Since Patton was arrested due to a warrant for failing to appear in court for a past offense unrelated to the eventual drug charge that arose from the search, there was no basis to believe evidence relating to Patton’s arrest would have been found in the car. The Court therefore reinstated the trial court’s suppression order.
Petitioner: Randall Patton
(Counsel: George A. Kolin)
Respondent: State of Washington
(Counsel: Peter S. Banks)
Argument: Thursday, May 29, 2008 9:00am
[Source: TVW, http://tvw.org]
Audio: Washington Supreme Court
Decided: Thursday, October 22nd, 2009
Opinion: 167 Wn.2d 379 (2009)
Court: Alexander4 Court (2008-2009)
Note: We post only slip opinion(s) as published at the time of the decision. Please consult Washington Reports printed volumes for the opinion(s) in their final form. Each opinion should appear next to the Justice who authored it.