May 22, 2008

WA: acting weird - now constitutionally protected in Washington State

See what a little motion to suppress can do. From the Olympian:

WA court: Police pat-downs can't be based on odd behavior

In another nod to the Washington Constitution's broad privacy protections, the state Supreme Court has thrown out the drug conviction of a man who was searched by police solely because of his weird behavior. Thursday's unanimous decision reinforces the rules for simple pat-downs under state law, which offers stronger safeguards against police searches than the U.S. Constitution...

The case is State v. Setterstrom (pdf file).

From Eye on Olympia:

Meth conviction tossed out; police frisk was unjustified...

An officer may frisk a person... if stopping the person was justifiable, if the officer has "a reasonable concern of danger" and the scope of the search is limited to finding weapons. But Setterstrom presented no reasonable danger, the court ruled. His "nervous, fidgety behavior" wasn't enough. There were no threatening gestures or words. And he remained sitting down. And it's not unreasonable to think that people filling out a state benefits form for unemployment might "exhibit erratic behavior..."

Big salute to Thurston County public defender Deborah Murphy, who preserved the issue at the trial level.