Thursday, January 21, 2016

Supreme Court reverses drug conviction on canine search

Posted By on Thu, Jan 21, 2016 at 9:38 AM

The Arkansas Supreme Court split 4-3 today in reversing the drug conviction and 12-year sentence of Cainis Mackintrush in Pulaski County because a drug dog sniff test was conducted without reasonable cause.

Justices Paul Danielson, Karen Baker, Courtney Goodson and Jo Hart formed the majority. The opinion written by Danielson recounts that Mackintrush was under suspicion because he'd used another name to sign to pick up a package at a postoffice and the package smelled of an odor masking agent, drier sheets. The Postal Service also found that names of sender and recipient didn't match address data on postal service software. North Little Rock officers followed Mackintrush and stopped him for failure to use a turn signal. He refused to allow a vehicle search. The officers called in a drug dog from Cammack Village that arrived 34 minutes after the suspect was first stopped. The dog alerted and marijuana was found in the package Macintrush had picked up, along with oxycodone pills.

Mackintrush argued that the evidence should have been suppressed because the traffic stop had extended beyond a reasonable time for the purpose of the stop, failure to use a turn signal. He argued there wasn't reasonable suspicion to conduct a search.

The Supreme Court majority agreed that the evidence should have been suppressed and reversed the conviction. It said the facts about the package didn't support reasonable suspicion. Use of a masking agent, for example, can be one of several factors that together give rise to reasonable suspicion, but not on its own. The majority said there are potentially innocent explanations for facts found suspicious by police. Somebody might  sign the name of a package recipient, rather than his own name, to pick up a package. Addresses might not match names because people change residences. "The facts and circumstances in the instant case simply do not give rise to more than a bare suspicion," the majority said. "....  Under the totality of the circumstances, specific, particularized, and articulable reasons indicating that MacKintrush was involved in criminal activity were lacking."

Chief Justice Howard Brill and Justice Robin Wynne joined a dissent written by Justice Rhonda Wood. They said there was reasonable suspicion Mackintrush was involved in drug-related criminal activity and his continued detention was proper.

The majority accurately describes our standard of review, pointing out that we are to consider the totality of the circumstances. In application, however, the majority isolates each suspicious fact and claims that each fact, standing alone, was innocuous. But these facts cannot be sealed off from one another and given the most charitable interpretation. Each fact must be viewed collectively and in context.

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