Court Finds Lawful Exception

As many Seattle domestic violence lawyers know, the general rule is that warrantless searches and seizures are considered, per se, unreasonable. In line with this policy, a Washington State law enforcement officer conducting a traffic stop may not request identification from a passenger for investigatory purposes without an independent reason to justify the request. Such a justification may exist if the law enforcement officer has an “articulable suspicion” that criminal activity is afoot. If he doesn’t, the detention would be deemed unconstitutional, and thus any evidence obtained during the stop would be inadmissible in a court of law.

A relatively recent Washington Court of Appeals case outlined this very point. The court reviewed a defendant’s conviction for violating a no-contact order, evaluating whether evidence should have been suppressed. See State v. Burks (Wash. Ct. App. Nov. 3, 2015). In Burks, a police officer conducted a traffic stop of a vehicle for speeding. The officer obtained the driver’s information and entered it into a search, which indicated that the driver was a protected party in a no-contact order. The officer noticed that the vehicle’s passenger matched the description of the respondent in the no-contact order. The officer requested identification from the passenger, which he did not provide. The officer used his vehicle’s computer system to locate a photograph of the passenger. The photograph matched the respondent of the no contact order. In turn, the officer arrested the defendant for violating the no-contact order. The defendant was thereafter charged with one count of a felony violation of a court order with a special allegation of domestic violence. At trial the defendant moved to suppress the evidence obtained during the traffic stop. He argued that it was an illegal invasion of privacy pursuant to the Washington Constitution. The trial court denied the motion. The court found that the officer had a reasonable suspicion to believe that the defendant was: (1) violating the no-contact order, (2) there was an independent reason to request the defendant’s identification, and (3) the traffic stop was lawful. The trial court convicted the defendant as charged, and the defendant appealed. On appeal, the defendant argued that the extended traffic stop was unlawful because the officer did not have a reasonable, articulable suspicion that he was engaged in criminal activity. The appeals court disagreed, finding that the police officer reasonably suspected a violation of the no-contact order in light of the circumstances. This is so because: (1) the description of the respondent in the no-contact order matched the defendant, and (2) the photograph search later conducted matched the defendant. Therefore, the court held that the officer had an independent basis to detain the defendant and request his identification. The conviction was affirmed.

if you or a loved has been arrested for a domestic violence related crime in King County, Washington immediately contact a Seattle domestic violence attorney to protect your rights and interests. The Seattle domestic violence attorneys that make up the criminal defense team of SQ Attorneys are highly qualified and reputable Seattle domestic violence criminal defense lawyers that are dedicated to providing top notch, aggressive representation for those arrested for crime all across Western Washington and the Greater Puget Sound region. The team creates success by working with law enforcement and the prosecuting attorney’s office to ensure that all facts and circumstances related to the criminal allegations are considered in creating the fairest, most equitable and just resolution possible in light of all the surrounding circumstances of the given case. So, whether cited for domestic violence related malicious mischief, assault, property destruction or some other crime, protect yourself … call SQ Attorneys immediately.

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