Search and Seizure- Baker Act Detention

Apr 17, 2023

The Court of Appeals found that the trial court erred by denying defendant’s motion to suppress evidence discovered on him after he was detained by officers under the Baker Act. The officer’s subjective interpretation of a text message sent to defendant’s ex-girlfriend stating “This is it. Once you’re done reading this, I will be gone” was insufficient to have subjected defendant to involuntary physical seizure under the Baker Act where message itself was not an explicit suicide threat, and accompanying photo showed only a hand holding a needle. The Court of Appeals rejected the argument that no Fourth Amendment violation occurred because search was performed pursuant to standard policy for transporting individuals to a receiving facility. Further, the Court found that the local law enforcement agency policies may be indicative of whether a search occasioned by a noncriminal seizure is reasonable, they do not dictate the parameters of the Fourth Amendment. In order conduct such a search, an officer must have a reasonable belief that his or her safety is in danger and must first perform a pat down. There was no evidence that the detaining officer believed he was in danger, and it was undisputed that a pat down was not conducted, further no exigent circumstances existed to warrant a search. The trial courts decision was reversed.



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