Elko conviction thrown out by high court
The Nevada Supreme Court ruled on Thursday an Elko officer’s continued detention of a man after finding he had committed no crime violated the man’s rights.
Ralph Torres was stopped while walking because the officer thought he might be drunk and too young to be out after curfew. But the man’s ID showed he was over 21.
The officer, however, continued to detain Torres, finding out later Torres had two outstanding warrants in California and arrested him. At that point, he found a gun in Torres’ pocket and charged him as an ex-felon in possession of a firearm.
Lawyers for Torres moved to suppress the handgun evidence saying the officer had confirmed Torres was not in violation of curfew and had no suspicion Torres had committed any other crime at that point.
The district judge held despite the five minutes between that and the discovery of the California warrants, the arrest was legal.
The high court reversed the conviction ruling the officer’s continued detention of Torres after he was cleared of any curfew violation violated his rights because he was not free to walk away at that point. It ruled the officer must have an objective justification for continuing to detain someone at that point.
It also ruled Torres was justified in believing he was being detained because the officer still had custody of his ID card.
Because of that, the high court ruled unanimously the illegal firearms evidence must be suppressed because it was the “fruit of an illegal seizure.”
“We conclude that the further detention of Torres was not consensual at the time of the warrants check and, thus, Torres was illegally seized,” the opinion states.