TN Supreme Court Holds Warrantless Search Invalid

TN Supreme Court Holds Warrantless Search Invalid

The Tennessee Supreme Court recently published State v. Ingram.  Justice Lee wrote the opinion for an unanimous court. The result is a mixed bag for Mr. Ingram.  The court found a search of his person by Police to be unconstitutional; but, the later search of his home was approved by the court.  The case was reversed in part and affirmed in part.  The decision is helpful in cases where there is a search of a person and the individual is not under arrest.    

Here is what happened.  Police officers believed they had probable cause to arrest Ingram for drug charges based on information from an informant and police surveillance of a drug buy.  A little later Police saw Ingram commit a minor driving offense.  Police pulled in behind Ingram at a gas station and stopped him, turning on their blue lights.  Police searched Ingram and told him that they had grounds to arrest him for drug distribution if they “wanted to.” The search of Ingram found money from the drug transaction.

The police then searched Ingram's residence based on his consent, although Ingram disputed this consent. The search produced cocaine and marijuana. Ingram was advised of his Miranda rights, but was not taken into custody. About four months later, Ingrow was indicted on ten counts of drug-related charges. Ingram moved to suppress the fruits of the search of his person and his residence. After the trial court denied the motion to suppress, the defendant was convicted of selling cocaine, conspiring to sell cocaine, possession of cocaine with intent to sell, possession of marijuana and possession of unlawful drug paraphernalia.

The Supreme Court
 held that Ingram was not under arrest at the time of the search of his person, and therefore the warrantless search was invalid. The warrantless search of his residence, however, was proper because the Ingram consented to the search and the consent was not the product of the previous illegal search of the Ingram's person. Ingram's convictions are reversed in part and affirmed in part. 
In the you can't be making this up category, the CI was originally seeing one drug source only to be told by her, "you're never going to believe who I am calling" to get the cocaine.  It was the CI's nephew.  Apparently Ingram was unwittingly brought into this scheme by his own family.


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