The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects citizens from unreasonable searches and seizures of proeprty. Subsequent court precedents have upheld the right to privacy for Americans if they have not consented to a search. A recent ruling by the Washington Supreme Court clarified this right even further.
The case stems from a traffic stop near Moxie. A Yakima Court Sheriff Deputy pulled over a pickup truck that was reported stolen and handcuffed the driver, Heath Wisdom. The deputy also found a pipe on Wisdom, who admitted that he used it to smoke methamphetamine. After Wisdom was read his rights, he confessed that there were drugs on the seat of the truck.
The deputy looked inside the truck and saw a black toiletry bag. He grabbed the bag and unzipped it to discover meth, other drugs, and over $2,000 in cash. Wisdom was arrested on four different drug-related charges.
However, Wisdom claimed that he although he admitted that there were drugs on the truck's seat, he didn't say that they were inside the toiletry bag. Wisdom never gave consent to the deputy to search the bag, and the deputy did not obtain a search warrant. Since the drugs were not in plain view but rather in a closed container, Wisdom contends that his Fourth Amendment rights were violated - even though they were in a stolen truck.
The state Supreme Court agreed with Wisdom. In a 2-1 decision, the court quashed the evidence found in the bag because it was obtained illegally, and also vacated all four charges against Wisdom. Moreover, the ruling even contained a baseball reference when referring to whether the contents of the bag were in plain view:
Boston Red Sox outfielder Ted Williams, the last player to bat over .400, possessed exceptional eyesight. He could follow the trajectory and instantaneously pinpoint the position of a fastball better than any umpire. He also was a fair and honest ball player. Nevertheless, American League rules did not allow Williams to call his own balls and strikes. The appearance of fairness demanded employment of a neutral umpire. Fairness demands that, except in emergency circumstances, a review by a neutral magistrate precede a search by a law enforcement officer of private possessions.
It's good to see that the justice system in Washington doesn't allow any wiggle room when it comes to citizen privacy - while also maintaining its sense of humor.