Consent to Search for Evidence in Maryland

lockers-466988-mIn a recent appellate case a defendant charged with a double murder challenged the evidence used against him on the grounds that it had been obtained through tainted consent. The police learned of the murders when a friend of Seth Aidoo reported he hadn’t seen Aidoo or his girlfriend in a few days. The police went to Aidoo’s home and found his body and his girlfriend’s body in the basement. They were dead.

Aidoo had been stabbed to death and his girlfriend had been shot in the head. The doctor pronounced both deaths were homicides. During the murder investigation it was determined they had been killed January 12, 2009. The detectives also discovered that Aidoo had lived with his wife and her brother and that the wife moved out when they separated. The brother moved shortly after that. The wife, brother and defendant lived together at the time of the murders.

Aidoo lived in a community with access gates controlled by transponders. The brother had gotten a transponder for these gates in March 2008. About two weeks before the murders, the defendant’s Mercedes Benz entered the community using the brother’s transponder. On the evening the murders occurred, the transponder was used again, except with a mini-van.

A detective obtained warrants to collect the defendant’s DNA and fingerprints and to search the wife’s new residence and the defendant’s Mercedes Benz. Surveillance was conducted in order to execute the warrants. The police stopped the defendant and two others and explained there was a murder investigation and a warrant for the defendant’s DNA and fingerprints. The defendant accompanied the police to the station.

The defendant was handcuffed on the way to the station but the cuffs were removed when he was inside a small interview room at the station. The defendant asked to use the restroom once, but other than that, didn’t ask to leave the room.

Meanwhile, another detective brought the defendant’s two passengers to the station as well. The search warrant was executed. The wife was questioned for four hours. Nobody was able to recover the defendant’s DNA and fingerprints until after the police completed their search of the wife’s house.

After 10 p.m., the detectives took a DNA swab from the defendant and his fingerprints. They questioned him about a storage locker. The detectives asked his permission to search it. The defendant agreed and signed a form consenting. While searching the locker, he police found a candle with a message etched into it. The message noted statements about Aidoo’s death like ” I want you to die” and Aidoo’s home address.

The defendant was charged with premeditated murders, conspiracy to commit murder and use of a handgun while committing a felony, and burglary.

The defendant contested the use of evidence from the storage locker, including the candle. He argued that the candle was the tainted fruit of consent obtained while the police were unlawfully detaining him. He argued he was under de facto arrest without probable cause during the first three hours and was still unlawfully under arrest when the police got his consent to search. The court denied his motion to suppress. The candle was admitted into evidence. The jury found the defendant guilty of most of the counts.

The defendant appealed, arguing the candle should have been suppressed. The Court of Special Appeals ruled his detention was based on reasonable suspicion he had killed the two victims. The Court of Appeals agreed to review multiple questions.

The appellate court explained that nonconsensual detections fall into two groups of seizures: either arrests for which probable cause is necessary or stops, which are based on an officer’s reasonable suspicion of criminal activity.

For purposes of argument, the court assumed the police didn’t have probably cause to arrest the defendant when they got consent to search. The defendant had argued that the detectives unreasonably delayed collecting his DNA and fingerprints. The court did not find three hours an unreasonable delay in that no officer was able to collect the DNA or fingerprints earlier.

The court noted the detectives had gotten consent to search the locker seven minutes after they started their interview of the defendant. The court found reasonable suspicion was all that was necessary to detain the defendant in this case because it was not a de facto arrest. The appellate court affirmed the lower court’s ruling not to suppress the evidence.

If you are arrested or charged with a crime, you should consult with an experienced Maryland criminal defense attorney. We will develop the best strategy we can to defend your case. Contact us at 301-519-2801 or via our online form.

More Blogs

Criminal Email Harassment in Maryland,  Maryland Criminal Lawyer Blog, February 12, 2014

Bill of Particulars in Maryland Criminal Defense, Maryland Criminal Lawyer Blog, January 25, 2014

 

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