Criminal Charge: Felony possession of drugs after former conviction of a felony
Case: State v. Kenyatta Carter
Court: [CF-06-217, Washington County]
Result: Case Dismissed
One of the best arguments for hiring a good lawyer I have ever seen, this case involved a bad arrest, a bad search and an unfortunate clerical error, all resulting in almost a year of litigation before the prosecutor wisely dismissed the case.
The Bartlesville PD stopped Mr. Carter for doing 6 miles over the speed limit. Then the officer arrested him because his dispatch told him an arrest warrant existed. As is his right, the officer conducted an “inventory search” of the car before impounding it to get it off the city street. The officer claimed to have found less than .01 grams of pot in the ashtray and charged him with possession of drugs.
Throughout this ordeal, Mr. Carter told the officer the warrant had been “recalled” by the issuing judge months earlier. In fact, his lawyer at the time had misinformed Mr. Carter about a court date in a family law matter so they both missed the court date. A bench warrant was orally issued for Mr. Carter but the judge immediately recalled it when she learned of the misunderstanding. Unfortunately, that same judge signed a written warrant – by another mistake – when it came across her desk a week later. This bad warrant floated around for months until the traffic stop. Mr. Carter’s vehicle was searched and inventoried, and he went to jail…on a clerical error.
While bizarre, this situation has been addressed by the U.S. Supreme Court. [Arizona v. Evans, 514 U.S. 1 ]. In Evans, the SCOTUS extended the so-called “good-faith” exception to evidence collected as a result of a bad arrest warrant: Mr. Evans went to prison because of what was found when he was arrested…on a clerical error.
The Evans decision would make it appear that Mr. Carter was destined to the same legal conclusion: bad warrant, good arrest, good search, and guilt. What a good criminal defense lawyer knows, however, is that Oklahoma has never adopted the “good-faith” exception to the warrant requirement. As a result, Haslam filed motions to dismiss the case because the arrest was illegal in Oklahoma: the police never get inside his car unless Mr. Carter is legally arrested.
The prosecutor fought Haslam’s efforts, but ultimately realized the futility of this case and dismissed it completely.