A three-judge panel of the Nevada Supreme Court ruled Thursday a Reno police officer had no business arresting and strip-searching a man whose only crime was an illegal left turn.
That ruling upholds a lower court decision suppressing evidence of cocaine and marijuana found on Rico Bayard during the search.
Bayard was pulled over after making an illegal left turn into the wrong lane. He was pulled over after a pedestrian waving to the vehicle suddenly acted like he didn't want to be seen flagging Bayard down.
District Judge Brent Adams agreed with public defenders that officer Ty Sceirine abused his discretion "because he had no legitimate reason to subject Bayard to the humiliation of a full custodial arrest instead of issuing him a citation."
"Bayard was cooperative at all times, provided the customary identification, volunteered that he was carrying a concealed weapon and furnished a valid permit and even agreed to a search of his person for potential drugs and other weapons," the opinion states. "The officer was not permitted to arrest Bayard based on a hunch or whim that Bayard was engaged in other illegal activity that might be revealed through a subsequent strip search or car search."
The panel consisting of Justices Bob Rose, Bill Maupin and Mark Gibbons wrote that officers do have the power to arrest someone during a traffic stop, but that power isn't unlimited. They ruled that, when the discretion is abused, as it was in Bayard's case the resulting arrest violates the Nevada Constitution.
Therefore, they ruled, the illegal drugs found during the search cannot be used as evidence in court.