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If you flee from a crime scene located on public property and leave your personal belongings the police can search what you left behind.

On Behalf of | Sep 6, 2022 | Criminal Defense

In August 2022, the Maryland Court of Appeals (“COA”) made a ruling in Richardson v. State, affirming the Maryland Court of Special Appeals which affirmed the Prince George’s County Circuit Court’s denial of the Defendant’s motion to suppress the fruits of the warrantless search of his backpack and the warranted search of his cell phone.  The COA held that the Defendant was not entitled to relief on appeal.

The Defendant got into a fight at school which was broken up by the school resource officer. During the altercation, the Defendant dropped his backpack on the ground.  The officer picked up the backpack and the Defendant immediately fled from the scene. The officer searched the backpack and found a firearm which was stolen and three cell phones. Police obtained a warrant to search one cell phone. The Defendant was charged with robbery and several other offenses. The Court of Appeals held that, in these circumstances, he relinquished his reasonable expectation of privacy in his backpack because he abandoned it.  After the trial court denied Defendant’s suppression motion as to both searches, he pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit robbery and wearing, carrying, and transporting a handgun. The court of special appeals affirmed. The COA affirmed, holding (1) because Defendant abandoned his backpack the warrantless search of his backpack was constitutionally permissible; and (2) the warrant authorizing the search of the cell phone did not comply with the particularity requirement of the Fourth Amendment, but the good faith exception to the exclusionary rule applied to the fruits of the cell phone search.