Category: OKLAHOMA

Settlement

SHERIFF UNLAWFULLY SEIZES HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS OF PROPERTY

Civil Litigation: Sheriff Unlawfully Seizes Hundreds of Thousands of Dollars of Property
Case: Mike Pierce v. Terry Parks, Sheriff of Choctaw County, OK [CJ-15-55][Choctaw County]
Result: Sheriff Forced to Return All Property and Pay Damages


Summary: According to the Choctaw County Sheriff [the “CCSO”] and Oklahoma’s Alcoholic Beverage License Enforcement [“ABLE”], their agents had probable cause for the warrants they executed on Mr. Pierce’s home and his two SE OK businesses.  A very successful self-made businessman, Mr. Pierce had hundreds of thousands of dollars of property seized by these agents via these warrants, including rare coins and precious metals.

Mr. Pierce hired Haslam to get his property back and defend what the CCSO promised would be a raft of serious felony charges. Mr. Pierce reasonably feared some of the thousands of rare coins would be “lost” while in the CCSO property room.  The CCSO claimed it had turned the case over to the FBI and federal prosecutors to explain the lengthy delay in bringing charges.

Haslam filed a replevin motion in Choctaw County District Court to force the authorities to either bring charges or return the property.  Rather than defend Haslam’s motion, the CCSO agreed to hand-deliver all the property back to Mr. Pierce and pay damages for his losses.

Case Dismissed

POSSESSION OF CDS AFTER FORMER CONVICTION OF TWO FELONIES

Criminal Charge: Possession of CDS after former conviction of two felonies
Case: State v. Shellie Coffman
Court: [CF-08-20, Choctaw County]
Result: Case Dismissed
Docket View: Oklahoma State Courts Network


Summary:

Ms. Coffman was the passenger in a car stopped at a roadblock. A Hugo police officer claimed he found a tin foil of crack cocaine in the floorboard by her seat, so he arrested her, searched her and claimed he found more cocaine in her jacket. She was charged with possession, and because she had two former felony convictions the new charge subjected her to a sentencing range of 6 years to life in the penitentiary.

Haslam moved to suppress the search of both the vehicle and Coffman because the officer illegally detained the vehicle longer than necessary to effect the purposes of the roadblock [license, insurance and equipment checks] and because her arrest was not supported by probable cause.

Traffic stops are the subject of a great deal of law. Oklahoma roadblocks are particularly closely watched by the courts because there is no probable cause supporting the stop. In Lookingbill v. State [2007 OK CR 7], the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals set strict new rules for this kind of stop. Specifically, it explained law enforcement simply cannot detain cars longer than necessary to effect the purpose of the roadblock, and that purpose must be clearly determined by officials before the roadblock is begun.

Here, the trial judge proceeded cautiously because Ms. Coffman was not the driver of the car and therefore might not have “standing” to object to the way the roadblock was handled. However, Haslam brought a new U.S. Supreme Court case, Brendlin v. California, to the attention of the Court, a case which recently, finally accorded passengers the right to object to the unlawful search of a vehicle.

The judge suppressed the fruits of this illegal arrest and search and dismissed the case.

Case Dismissed

SECOND DEGREE BURGLARY

Criminal Charge: Second Degree Burglary
Case: State v. Kristopher Minter
Court: [CF-07-106, Choctaw County]
Result: Case Dismissed
Docket View: 


Summary:

Based on the alleged tip of an alleged accomplice, Hugo PD went to Kris’s home to question him about his involvement in a home burglary in which several household items were taken.

When the officers arrived, however, no one was home. Instead, the police contended the front and back doors to the home were ajar. The officers justifed searching Kris’s home without a warrant by saying they went inside to satisfy themselves that no one was burglarizing HIS home. Of course, the police contended they recovered some of the household items alleged to have been stolen while they were securing Kris’s home and charged him with the burglary. When Kris’s mother arrived on the scene, the police obtained permission from her to search the house…..

Haslam moved to suppress the search under the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and cited the many, many cases on the books that outline the police’s authority to make warrantless entry of a home in such a situation. At the evidentiary hearing on the motion, the officer admitted there was no alarm, no complaining neighbor, no indication of movement indoors, no reason he could not simply secure the premises and obtain a warrant, and no evidence of a break-in. He argued the so-called consent obtained AFTER the search was insufficient to “purge the taint” of the original lawless search.

The court sustained the motion to suppress and dismissed the charges against Kris.