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Search of car upheld based on hypodermic needles in plain view and driver’s drug record

State v. Kendra E. Manlick, 2014AP2138-CR, 2014AP2626-CR, 4/1/15, District 2 (1-judge opinion, ineligible for publication); click here for docket and briefs

Manlick was charged with possession of a controlled substance and bail-jumping after an officer, who knew of her drug record, stopped the car she was driving based on an outstanding warrant for the car’s owner, observed unsterile hypodermic needles in it, and then conducted a search yielding additional incriminating evidence.  Manlick’s suppression and ineffective assistance of counsel claims failed on appeal.

Search and seizure. The court of appeals held, based on Katz v. United States, 389 U.S. 347, 351 (1967), that the officer’s observation of the two hypodermic needles in an area of the car that “would be entirely visible to him as a private citizen” was not a search within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment as she did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in those objects.  See State v. Field, 123 Wis. 2d 466, 472., 367 N.W.2d 821 (1985). As for the subsequent search of the car, which turned up drugs and more paraphernalia, the officer had probable cause to conduct it based on his observation of the needles, his knowledge of how such needles were used, and his familiarity with Manlick’s drug record. Slip op. ¶8.

Ineffective assistance of counsel. At the suppression hearing, Manlick’s trial counsel forgot to argue that hypodermic needles are expressly excluded as “drug paraphernalia”under §961.571(b)(1) raising the question of whether she could be charged with possession of drug paraphernalia. The court of appeals deemed the mistake nonprejudicial because the search yielded additional drug paraphernalia to support the charge. Slip op. ¶13.



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