State v. Keller

Summarized by:

  • Court: Oregon Court of Appeals
  • Area(s) of Law: Criminal Procedure
  • Date Filed: 08-17-2016
  • Case #: A156705
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Hadlock, C.J. for the Court; Armstrong, P.J.; & Allen, J. pro tempore.

In order to establish probable cause for an arrest for possession of controlled substances, an officer must show more facts than merely presence in the proximity of a controlled substance.

Defendant appealed a judgment of conviction for illegal possession and delivery of controlled substances. Defendant assigned error to the trial court's denial of his motion to suppress evidence obtained after a warrantless arrest because the officer lacked probable cause to arrest him. As the officer patrolled a rest area with a reputation for criminal activity, he noticed two people sitting in a parked car and approached them. Through the car window, the officer observed what he believed to be a heroin baggie near the feet of the passenger, out of the driver’s (Defendant’s) line of sight, and arrested both Defendant and the passenger. To make the arrest he did, the officer needed probable cause to believe that Defendant knowingly exercised control over the controlled substance (actual possession) or had the right to do so (constructive possession). It was undisputed that the officer had probable cause to arrest the passenger. No evidence suggested that Defendant actually possessed the heroin residue before his arrest, nor was the officer's observation of the suspected baggie next to the passenger sufficient to support an inference that Defendant constructively possessed the heroin. "An inference of constructive possession is reasonable only if some facts link [D]efendant's presence in the [vehicle] where the drugs were observed to [D]efendant's right to control those drugs;" "mere presence in the proximity of a controlled substance is not a sufficient basis from which to draw an inference of constructive possession." Reversed and remanded.

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