Supreme Court overturns drug conviction because of illegal search

The Nevada Supreme Court on Friday overturned a marijuana conviction saying state narcotics agents had no right to coerce Ruth Anne McMorran into allowing a search of her motel room.

She was convicted of aiding and abetting in the possession of a controlled substance for purposes of sale. Her lawyer sought to bar the evidence saying Nevada Division of Investigation officers conducted an unreasonable search. But White Pine County Judge Merlyn Hoyt refused and allowed the evidence.

"Acquiescence that is the product of official intimidation or harassment is not consent," the high court opinion stated. They said the officers had no grounds for suspecting McMorran of a crime except for an anonymous phone call.

"The only basis they had to suspect the existence of criminal activity was the anonymous tip received by the sheriff's department," said the opinion. They said that tip doesn't amount to probable cause and, therefore, the search and seizure of the evidence in the case was unlawful. In trying to get permission to search the room, they effectively told McMorran and the other person there that they were getting a search warrant and would stay in the room until they did.

The high court opinion said there was also an indication of possible trickery by the officers because the officer sent to get the warrant actually didn't leave but just went outside.

"By threatening to seize the motel room and detail its occupants without having probable cause to believe that a crime had been committed or was about to be committed, the investigating officers obtained consent which was not voluntary under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution or the Nevada Constitution," they said.

The conviction was overturned and sent back to district court.


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