“Consent” for Search Was Involuntary in Violation of the Oregon Constitution
The Oregon Court of Appeals recently reversed the conviction of defendant Jeremy Dean Watts on the grounds that Watts had not consented to the search of his residence, and even if he had, it had not been voluntary. The trial court erred by not granting Watts’ motion to suppress evidence.
The case began on a dark January night when about a dozen members of a Special Response Team (SRT) pulled up to a house occupied by Watts’ uncle. The team arrived in three armored vehicles with sirens blaring. The officers wore full body armor and were armed with semi-automatic rifles. Using loudspeakers, they ordered all occupants out of the home.
As luck would have it, Watts, who lived in an outbuilding on the property, was visiting his uncle in the main house. Watts, his uncle, and all other occupants were then handcuffed and detained. Meanwhile, officers had discovered Watts’ residence and asked him to tie up his dogs so they could enter his home and search it.
After Watts tied his dogs, he said, “have at it, it’s all yours.” In his home, officers found three guns. Subsequently, Watts was charged and convicted on three counts of being a felon in possession of a gun.
The trial court ruled that Watts’ consent was voluntary since he opened his residence to remove his dogs and had said “have at it, it’s all yours.” On appeal, Watts argued his consent was not voluntary. Fortunately for Watts, the Court of Appeals agreed. It found the actions of the SRT were equivalent to saying, “I’m coming in” as opposed to “I’d like to come in.”
A reasonable person would have thought he had no choice. The search was going to commence and Watts could not object. His statement about “have at it, it’s all yours” was not consent, but acquiescence to the inevitable search. Accordingly, the trial court erred in denying the motion to suppress evidence and the Court of Appeals reversed the conviction.
Takeaway from the Case
You should never give consent to a search. You have a guarantee under Article I, section 9, of the Oregon Constitution to be free from warrantless searches. The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution also protects you. If consent is given, then a warrant is not needed, but consent must be voluntary. When not voluntarily given, consent is not valid and any evidence obtained during the warrantless search must be suppressed.
Lemarr E. Carver, a Beaverton/Salem Criminal Appeals Attorney Can Help
At the Law Offices of Lemarr E. Carver, attorney Carver has spent years fighting to preserve all constitutional rights of his clients. He devotes a substantial portion of his practice to criminal appeals and has a track record of success.
If you have a question about a search that revealed damaging evidence, contact him at (503) 352-5804 (Beaverton) or (503) 585-0515 (Salem) for a free consultation. His offices are located in Beaverton and Salem and he serves all those throughout the state of Oregon.