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Finally . . . A Court Calls Bullsh*t on a Cop's Testimony

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State v. Vaughn, 2d District (Montgomery County), 12/31/12.

Yesterday, the Montgomery County Court of Appeals, 2nd District, affirmed a trial court's decision to grant a defendant's motion to suppress drugs that were seized unconstitutionally. The basis of the suppression was that the officer who seized the evidence did not possess the factual information that his partner had. The Court of Appeals refused to impute the knowledge of the backup officer to the arresting officer even though they both were involved in detaining and searching the defendant and her accomplice.

Specifically, the case would have gone the other way had the other officer detained the defendant and searched her. The personal information that he had on her was enough to support probable cause to search the pockets of the defendant.

This case is a great example of a defense lawyer digging in to the reports, spotting a 4th Amendment issue, filing specific motions to suppress, conducting a hearing, asking the right questions, and presenting case law to the trial judge. Further, I have to give the trial judge and appellate court kudos for taking the time to split the hairs in this one. It sounds like the defendant was not the most sympathetic of people, she allegedly deals crack cocaine, and at least one of the detectives knew her by name, face and reputation. Nonetheless, cops can't just detain and search people without personal knowledge of facts supporting probable cause.

As an aside, there is one piece of this case that is amusing and that I am finally glad to see judges call BS on an officer's testimony. The arresting officer grabbed the arm of the defendant as she was reaching for a plastic baggie in her shirt pocket. He actually had the cajones to testify, under oath, that he grabbed her hand because he was afraid she might have a weapon (in her shirt pocket).

An interesting case from one of the best appellate districts in Ohio on the last day of 2012.