Passed-out driver free on two drug charges
Police search of man's idling Jeep ruled unlawful
Jerry Junior Hewitt sat unconscious at the wheel of his mother's Jeep Cherokee with the engine running at a busy intersection.
On a summer Sunday morning, it was enough to spark concern from passersby. A woman tried to wake Hewitt. Someone called 911.
After police arrived at Dufferin St. and Davenport Rd. to check on the deejay events planner, one officer found crack cocaine in the Jeep.
Yesterday, however, Superior Court Justice Arthur Pattillo threw out the drug charges against Hewitt, ruling police had breached the 27-year-old's constitutional rights.
"I find that the search constituted an unreasonable search and seizure," Pattillo said.
"The actions of the police in searching Mr. Hewitt's vehicle in the manner in which they did on June 18, 2006, were not a lawful exercise of either the police's statutory or common-law duties," Pattillo ruled.
He ordered Hewitt acquitted of cocaine possession and trafficking charges.
Hewitt's lawyer, Ari Goldkind, said outside court that the officers had no more right to look through Hewitt's vehicle than they had to rifle through his pockets.
When Const. Irwin Correa arrived at 9:41 a.m. to find Hewitt sitting unconscious in his vehicle, he tried to wake him up but got no response.
He saw the keys were in the ignition, the Jeep was running and the gear shift was in drive – although Hewitt's foot was on the brake.
Correa reached in to turn off the ignition and put the Jeep in park.
Hewitt then woke up and Correa asked him if he was okay.
He noted that Hewitt's eyes were red, and he was disoriented and confused.
When Hewitt tried to turn the car back on, Correa grabbed the keys, told him not to move and asked if he had consumed alcohol. Hewitt said no but agreed to have paramedics check him out, the judge said.
Hewitt then got out to walk to the ambulance, escorted by Correa.
Minutes later, Const. Eliana Santos, who had arrived after Correa, said she located several bags of crack cocaine and drug paraphernalia in the Jeep.
Thirteen grams of crack were found after a search of the accused and his car.
Santos testified she found the drugs while looking for medication at the paramedics' request.
But the judge rejected the explanation.
"He could have easily been asked directly if he was on any medication," Pattillo said.
Apr 08, 2009 04:30 AM