Valley County sheriff’s deputies had no right to search a McCall, Idaho, man’s pickup truck after essentially placing him under arrest without probable cause, the Idaho Supreme Court has ruled.
The 3-2 decision on Monday reversed 4th District Judge George Carey’s denial of Bob Pannell’s motion to suppress evidence found during the June 23, 1993, search.
Pannell pleaded guilty to possession of more than 3 ounces of marijuana found in his pickup, but reserved the right to appeal.
Chief Justice Charles McDevitt wrote for the high court majority that since deputies lacked probable cause to believe Pannell had committed any crime at the time he was handcuffed and placed in the back seat of a patrol car, the arrest was unlawful.
“Because the search of Pannell’s vehicle could only have been conducted as incident to that unlawful arrest, it too was unlawful,” McDevitt wrote. “Accordingly, the evidence obtained as a result of that unlawful search must be suppressed.”
Justice Linda Copple Trout, joined by Justice Cathy Silak, disagreed. Trout argued that the deputies did not arrest Pannell after stopping him in his pickup about 1-1/4 miles from his home, where they had been called to a reported domestic disturbance, but placed him in “investigative detention” for the public’s safety and their own.
The Supreme Court’s majority “simply ignores the fact” that officers handcuffed Pannell “for transportation and safety purposes while continuing a legitimate investigation,” Trout wrote.
She said the officers had legitimate concerns that Pannell could not safely drive his pickup home so they could continue their investigation of the domestic disturbance report.