Wednesday, July 7, 2021

Police seizure and search of a pill bottle

 A Colorado appellate court recently reversed a conviction following the trial court's refusal to suppress evidence (nonprescribed oxycodone pills) obtained as a result of an illegal search of pill bottles found in defendant's car.

Per the 4th Amendment, police search of a seized container's concealed contents must be pursuant to a search warrant or justified by one of the limited exceptions to the warrant requirement.

Mere police observation of an unlabeled prescription pill bottle does not give them probable cause to associate it with criminal activity.  Although they lawfully seized the bottles under the so-called plain view exception to the warrant requirement, police lacked constitutional authority to further inspect (search) them without a warrant.

Because that unlawfully obtained evidence was used to convict defendant, the conviction could not stand and was reversed.

The case is People v. Alemayehu, 2021 COA 69.

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