Criminal law cases often revolve around assessments concerning legal principles that can vary materially from case to case.
Moreover, what might seem unreasonable to one person can seem flatly right to another. In short, many legal standards are more fluid than firm. Opinions in specific cases are subject to differing interpretations.
Even among judges.
That disparity in judicial viewpoint was clearly on display in conflicting Colorado court outcomes recently concerning a methamphetamine possession case.
The criminal court of first instance found for the defendant in that matter, ruling that seized evidence in the case was inadmissible on grounds of police overreach.
The Colorado Supreme Court reversed that decision. Its ruling stressed that a police officer’s actions leading to the discovery of meth in a person’s pocket were justifiable and did not violate any constitutional safeguard.
The defendant was being searched for weapons by a Colorado Springs officer pursuant to a domestic violence call. While that investigatory stop was ongoing, the officer detected a pill bottle. He inquired about its contents, and the suspect obliged by producing baggies of methamphetamine. He was subsequently convicted on charges that included possession and possession with intent to manufacture or distribute.
As stated above, the court tossed the incriminating evidence, finding that the officer’s question concerning the bottle exceeded the reasonable scope of a search for weapons.
The state’s highest court disagreed. Its decision earlier this month emphasized that so-called “off-topic questioning” and what it reveals is acceptable provided it does not unreasonably prolong a detained party’s forced encounter with law enforcers.
The case underscores the ambiguity that can sometimes attach to police stops and uncovered evidence, as well as divided judicial opinions that can feature in a given matter.
And it spotlights the need for any criminal suspect to timely secure aggressive and proven criminal defense representation.
We note on our website at Shazam Kianpour & Associates in Denver that, in every drug case we handle, our attorneys closely probe “whether the police violated your constitutional rights when gathering evidence against you.”
We welcome contacts to the firm from individuals having questions or concerns regarding a drug-linked police stop or any other criminal law matter.