In this case, Mr. Jones, the owner of a 7/11 store, was robbed on the morning of May 5, 2012. In describing the robbers, Mr. Jones stated that both of them stood six feet tall and drove away in a four-door green Toyota Camry. Jack Wilson, a student at Dominican College drove a green four-door Honda Civic. Thinking that his car was involved in the robbery, a police officer stopped him and asked Wilson where he was coming from and where he was going. As a student, it would be right to assume that he is in the area of the college where he attends school. The officer saw a white substance in the front of his car and likely taking it to be drugs, asked Wilson what it was; it was later determined to be laundry detergent. Upon search of his trunk, the officer found a laptop computer that was not to be removed from campus. Asking Wilson if it was his, the young man refused to answer and was placed under arrest for grand theft. However, this appears as a miscarriage of justice, as the computer was placed in his car as a prank, his Honda Civic was not the car reported by Mr. Jones, and the substance in his car was legal.
Mr. Wilson was convicted of grand larceny, yet his defense attorney is appealing to the Court of Appeals. Before getting to his grand larceny charge, it is important to follow the sequence of events that led to it. First is concerning his constitutional right to disallow search and seizure of his person and personal effects. The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution generally prohibits search and seizure by law enforcement via arbitrary vehicle searches. Police can search a car under probable cause, which includes but is not limited to prior arrests, reasons to believe that there is evidence of a crime in the vehicle or that it is necessary for their own protection. The officer believed that he had a controlled substance in his car, yet once it was found not to be in there, he should have let Mr. Wilson go. However, Mr. Wilson, not knowing the search was over, allowed him to look in the trunk where the laptop was. It is clear Mr. Wilson was not aware of his constitutional right to stop the search and the officer abused his power in going against the Fourth Amendment in arresting him for grand larceny. Aside from the laundry detergent, the officer had no reason to believe that there was any other evidence of a crime in the vehicle. As this was his personal vehicle, Mr. Wilson expected and was entitled to a reasonable degree of privacy.
Another appealable action in this case is his detention and arrest, which directly relates to the search and seizure and violation of Mr. Wilson’s Fourth Amendment rights. As Mr. Wilson was being interrogated, he proclaimed that he thought he needed an attorney and asked the officers’ opinions. After four hours of interrogation, Mr. Wilson said it repeatedly that he thought he needed an attorney and the officers ignored it.
Although he did not explicitly state he wanted an attorney, which would have stopped the interrogation, the officers should have reasonable realized that Mr. Wilson felt one was necessary for him. The laws of criminal justice may be rigid, but officers should have enough intelligence to understand when people feel they need legal representation, especially considering that Wilson was a college student who likely had never been in a situation like this before. His detention, arrest and ensuing confession were not coerced, but were given out of a display of duress from Mr. Wilson. Wilson also exclaimed that the removal of the computer from campus grounds was meant as a prank and would have been returned in a couple of days; this convicted him in criminal court. His “confession” was a declaration of his intent and how he had not removed the computer from campus himself. It was placed in his car by another student who had possession of the computer. As a convicted criminal, Wilson has the right to appeal the ruling and verdict. In his case, the officer exceeded the scope of his search, which should have been completely over upon discovering that the laundry detergent in Mr. Wilson’s car was that and not a controlled substance. As someone who fully complied with the officer, Wilson encouraged him to open the trunk to prove his innocence. The officer overstepped his bounds as law enforcement and continued the search after having no probable cause. It is true that the computer was not to be removed from campus, yet Wilson is presumably not the person who took it; Johnny Rivera, another student did.
Mr. Wilson was convicted of grand larceny despite the officer’s misconduct inside and outside of the police station. He exceeded his scope and limits regarding search and seizure, violating Wilson’s Fourth Amendment right. He is within his rights to appeal the conviction and his defense attorney should carry out the process. The officer was beyond his scope of duty and ignored the apparent desire for an attorney from Mr. Wilson during interrogation. The officer was read his Miranda rights, yet there seems to be an issue here of intent. Wilson, as a college student, was likely unaware of his constitutional rights as a citizen of the United States. It would be remiss to assume that everyone is in knowledge of those rights, especially in a high stress situation like a police encounter. The officers in question should have understood that Wilson wanted an attorney, yet before that, understood the misunderstanding of a prank and a crime committed with intent.