Pasco, WA asked in Criminal Law and Constitutional Law for Washington

Q: can an off duty cop from a neighboring county detain me and run my name then search me? Isn't that an illegal search?

the cop was on his way home and just happened to live in the neighborhood, a couple blocks from my house. when he ran my name it came back that i had a warrant out of another county (neither the county that i was in or the county that the cop was from). when it came back that i had a warrant he then placed me in handcuffs and searched me, then finding a full clip to a firearm in my back pocket. i was placed in the back of his patrol car and he called local law enforcement who searched my backpack finding a firearm. i was booked into the county jail for the warrant from another county and unlawful possession of a firearm 1. do i have a fighting chance at getting it dismissed?

1 Lawyer Answer
Jennifer Melissa Azure
Jennifer Melissa Azure
  • Criminal Law Lawyer
  • Kennewick, WA
  • Licensed in Washington

A: The easy answer...It depends. A licensed law enforcement officer is authorized to perform their duties even when they’re off duty. These cases are highly factually specific. It depends upon the contact that was made and the situation that surrounded that initial contact. So when that officer ran your name and discovered a warrant, they have an obligation to make sure you were the correct person, determine whether or not it was a valid warrant and if so arrest you.

The fact that the warrant was out of a different county probably doesn't matter as law enforcement officers are able to enforce orders out of other jurisdictions. (For example... if the officer was out of Benton, you were in Franklin and the warrant was out of Adams, the officer can still enforce the law.) Based upon that arrest, the officer does have the right to search your person incident to arrest.

You may have an argument depending upon the circumstances surrounding the contact and the search of your backpack. Again, these cases are very factually specific. If it was a bad contact, then all evidence could be tossed. You should talk to an attorney regarding the facts you have provided and the officer's report. There may be some issues in your case that a skilled attorney can help you with on your case.

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