Pubdate: Sat, 18 May 2002
Source: Nevada Appeal (NV)
Contact:  2002 Nevada Appeal
Author: Geoff Dornan 


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

"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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