Forensic Science Case Study Analysis

Resources should be summarized or paraphrased with appropriate in-text and Resource page citations.

Project 2

Project Background Facts

Officer Rodriguez was working Unit 123 in the Southern District on the 11 pm-to-7 am. He had gone into the station to gas up his marked patrol car about 3:00 AM. As he was leaving he heard the dispatcher put out an “Silver Alert” call for missing elderly person. The eight-eight year old woman, Svetlana Minsk, had been taken from the home of her guardian who saw the estranged son put the Ms. Minsk in the trunk of a small foreign sports utility vehicle. Svetlana is white female, 5 feet tall, short gray hair, brown eyes last seen wearing a light blue sweatshirt and pant. The son was Alesandr Minsk, 5 feet 5 inches inches tall, brown hair, brown, brown eyes, wearing a white tee-short and blue jeans. “No further description of the vehicle is available at this time.” the dispatcher announced.

Officer Rodriguez realized the address provided in the broadcast was in the Eastern District, about 2 miles east of the stationhouse. He hurried back to his patrol area after noting all of the dispatched information. About an hour later Officer Rodriguez pulled up at a traffic light behind a BMW sport utility vehicle. In this neighborhood such a vehicle was not at all unusual, but as this one pulled away Rodriguez noticed that it stuttered and stalled. The driver re-started the car, but it stuttered forward and stalled again. Officer Rodriguez quickly concluded either the driver was having mechanical trouble, or the driver was impaired, either way, he was going to perform a car stop.

Once Officer Rodriguez got the car to pull over to the curb, he approached the driver’s window and asked for his license and vehicle registration. Doing so, Officer Rodriguez notices no odor of alcohol but the driver was clearly nervous. The driver responded that he didn’t have his wallet with his license and the car registration. Back in his car Officer Rodriguez entered the car license tag on his computer terminal and learned it was registered to a Ronald Wilson with an address across the city. As he was noting the address Officer Rodriguez looked up and was surprised to see that the driver had gotten out of his car and was approaching him.

Officer Rodriguez got out of his car and, with his hand on the grip of his holstered sidearm ordered the driver to put his hands on the hood of the police car. Officer Rodriguez did a quick pat down of the driver. In the front right pocket of the driver’s pants Rodriguez felt what he thought might be a handgun. Without hesitation Officer Rodriguez reached into the pocket and retrieved a hand-carved pipe with a golf-ball size bowl and a 5-inch long pipe. Officer Rodriguez’s senses and experience told him this was being used as a marijuana pipe.

Officer Rodriguez thought he had probable cause for an arrest, but he wasn’t interested in taking the time and effort for a single piece of drug paraphernalia. Still, Officer Rodriguez handcuffed the driver and placed him in the rear seat of the patrol car. He asked the still-unidentified subject for his name. Elliott Reynolds was the response. Rodriguez noted that “Reynolds” had on a brown “hoodie” sweatshirt over a white tee-shirt and wore blue jeans. Both his hair and eyes looked brown in the street lighting available. Remembering the Silver Alert, Rodriguez asked the subject again if his name was Alesandr Minsk. The handcuffed subject in the backseat repeated his name was Elliott Reynold and said that the officer better let him go “ ‘cause he didn’t do anything wrong.”

Unsatisfied, Officer Rodriguez returned to the sports utility vehicle and, after reaching in to retrieve the keys from the ignition, used the keys to open the vehicle trunk. All the while he could hear “what do you think your doin’?” And, “Stay outta my car!” coming from the rear seat of his unit. In the streetlight Officer Rodriguez saw a large dry cleaner-type cellophane bag containing what appeared to the officer to be marijuana. Officer Rodriguez returned to his car and informed the man who identified himself as Elliott Reynolds that he was under arrest for possession of suspected marijuana with intent to distribute.

Project Question:

Carefully look at the facts and explain your answers to the issues in a formal memorandum by using search and seizure law, the facts and reasonable inferences from those facts.

Identify and evaluate any issues regarding the stop, continued detention, pat down and/or searches or arrest of Mr. Reynolds using cases and principles we have studied to support your arguments. Please conclude the memorandum with a discussion of whether the arrest of Mr. Reynolds and search of his vehicle were valid.

** Use cases we have studied, the texts and modules we have read and other cases you might find in your research to support your evaluation of the issues. Cite any resources you use to compose this memorandum.

Form and Format:

  • Cover page to include Student’s name, Course name and number, and date of submission
  • Bibliography page to include resources and cases in APA citation format
  • Memorandum (3-5 pages NOT including cover and bibliography pages, 12 font, double spaced with 1 inch margins) in response to the issues/questions presented above
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