Supreme Court sends Nevada search & seizure case back

The U.S. Supreme Court has ordered a controversial search and seizure ruling by Nevada’s high court back to the state for a new review.

The case involves the arrest of Ralph Torres by an Elko police officer after the officer saw him walking but exhibiting signs of intoxication. The officer asked for identification to prove Torres was over 21, which Torres produced. Then the officer held Torres while his identity was checked for outstanding warrants.

When two warrants were found, he arrested Torres. While searching him, the officer found a gun on Torres and charged him as an ex-felon in possession and with carrying a concealed weapon.

He was convicted but, on appeal, the Nevada Supreme Court reversed the conviction ruling that, once the valid ID confirmed his age, “the suspicion for the original encounter was cured and (the officer) no longer had reasonable suspicion to detain Torres.” The court ruled that the continued detention of Torres beyond that point violated his 4th Amendment protections against illegal seizure.

Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt said the appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court was taken because of the numerous and often conflicting rulings by appellate courts on 4th Amendment issues.

“These 4th Amendment questions have divided Nevada courts and others nationwide,” he said. “This case was brought to my attention at my first Law Enforcement Summit convened in 2015 and subsequently reviewed by my office.”

The petition asked the high court to summarily reverse the Nevada Supreme Court ruling. Instead, the issue was sent back to Nevada’s Supreme Court to review whether retaining an ID to check its authenticity transforms a legal stop into an illegal seizure.

The petition also asks the US. Supreme Court to review the conflicting 4th Amendment rulings by lower courts and different states and, in effect, settle the issue.

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