WA Legal Roundup: Division III
This case involves the application of the recent (April 2009) holding by the U.S. Supreme Court in Arizona v. Gant in regards to searches incident to arrest.
Grib was on a serious party binge on July 27, 2007. A witness heard a noise in his front yard and looked out the window. There was Grib parked in the witness’s flower bed. The witness confronted Grib who snarled in a “thick Russian accent” that he must have passed out. The witness asked Grib to get out of his vehicle and Grib just drove off weaving down the road. The witness called 911.
A police officer caught up with Grib, but he refused to pull over. Finally Grib bailed out of the car while it was still moving. Just like on “Cops”! Grib then jumped into the adjacent canal and swam to the other side. One of the pursuing officers had to jump into Grib’s still moving vehicle and put it into park.
Grib swam across the canal and stood on the other side challenging the police officers to come across the canal and fight him. Apparently he doesn’t know about bridges. Another officer approached Grib on the other side of the canal. Grib charged the officer with arms flailing and he was quickly tasered and dropped to the ground. Apparently he didn’t know about tasers either.
Grib continued to battle the police even back at the station. The source of his energy and agitation was found in his glove box in the form of 1.8 grams of methamphetamine.
Now if the officer had just impounded the vehicle and then conducted an inventory of the vehicle, the seizure of the meth would have been legal. But the officer and the prosecutor labeled the search as one incident to arrest. The trial court held that the search was legal as it was conducted incident to arrest.
And that’s where Arizona v. Gant comes into play: Police may “search a vehicle incident to a recent occupant's arrest only when the arrestee is unsecured and within reaching distance of the passenger compartment at the time of the search."
Since Grib was on the other side of the canal when he was arrested, I think it’s safe to say he was not within reaching distance of the passenger compartment. The possession and DUI convictions were reversed.
Run junkie run!