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Kansas Supreme Court rules warrantless search illegal

The Kansas Supreme Court has upheld a lower court's decision to prevent the use of specific evidence that was seized during an illegal search. The Lyon County District Court had previously ruled that the evidence could not be admitted as a part of the criminal case, but an appeals court decided otherwise. Now, it appears that certain information will not be viable in the court case against a Kansas man accused of possessing methamphetamine with the intent to distribute the drug.

Reports show that the illegal search occurred after an apartment landlord requested assistance with an occupant who was found unconscious and unresponsive in a unit that was thought to be abandoned. Police officers responded, and they were ultimately able to revive the man. A drug officer then responded to the scene and searched the man's clothing, where a packet of methamphetamine was reportedly discovered.

Officers had used the "emergency aid doctrine" to justify their warrantless search. That is, officers are sometimes allowed to perform such searches when an emergency arises. This case did not qualify, however, because the defendant did not actually need medical assistance. At that point, the officers should have left the home. Instead, they waited for the arrival of a drug detective, who conducted an additional search for illegal substances.

This decision demonstrates the potential for illegal search and seizure in a variety of interactions with police officers. Criminal defendants who are facing state or federal drug crimes need to double-check that officers followed the letter of the law when executing their search. In this case, the officers were found to have violated the man's Fourth Amendment protections, and much of the evidence in the drug case will now be barred from use in court.

Source: The Topeka Capital-Journal, "Kansas high court finds Emporia drug search illegal" No author given, Apr. 25, 2014

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