Washington Supreme Court Decision Involving Search Incident to Arrest by Fish and Wildlife Police Officer

State v. Brock, No. 90751-0 (Sept. 3, 2015).
This case involves whether under Washington State Constitution article I, section 7, an officer may search an arrestee's backpack as a search incident to arrest when the arrestee was wearing the backpack when stopped by police, but  not at the time he was arrested. Fish and wildlife Police Sergeant Erik Olson initially contacted Brock as he was trespassing in a Seattle area park. Though Sergeant Olson had probable cause to arrest for trespass, he did not affect the arrest, and instead had Brock remove his backpack. He then conducted a Terry stop and frisk. No wallet or identification was found during the frisk. Officer Olson put the backpack in his vehicle for safety purposes. After a period of questioning that lasted about 10 minutes where Brock supplied false identification, Officer Olson arrested Brock for providing false information and searched the backpack incident to arrest. Officer Olson found a wallet that contained the Brock's DOC identification card and drugs. After placing Brock in the patrol vehicle and running his real name to find a felony warrant, the officer conducted an inventory search of the backpack prior to booking found numerous checks, credit cards, and mail belonging to people other than Brock and more baggies possibly containing drugs.
 
The search was upheld in district court, but suppressed in appellate court because the court said the passage of time Brock was separated from the backpack prior to his arrest meant that the Brock did not have actual, exclusive possession of the backpack "immediately preceding" the arrest. The case was appealed to the WA Supreme Court. The WA Supreme Court held that when an officer removes an item from the arrestee’s person during a lawful Terry stop and the Terry stop ripens into a lawful arrest, the passage of time does not wipe away the authority of law justifying the search incident to arrest. The court said that the test as to whether the personal item was in actual possession of the arrested person "immediately preceding" the arrest is "whether possession so immediately precedes arrest that the item is still functionally a part of the arrestee's person. Put simply, personal items that will go to jail with the arrestee are considered in the arrestee's ‘possession’ and are within the scope of the officer's authority to search."