Search illegal, drug conviction rejected Hagerstown police turned up cocaine

April 30, 1991|By Anne Arundel Bureau of The Sun

ANNAPOLIS — An article reporting a Court of Appeals decision in the April 30 editions of The Sun incorrectly stated that Hagerstown police had a warrant to search an apartment where drugs were discovered in a visitor's bag. In fact, police did not have a search warrant but obtained permission from the tenant to make the search.

ANNAPOLIS -- The Maryland Court of Appeals overturned yesterday the drug conviction of a Florida man whose bag had contained more than $78,000 worth of crack cocaine, ruling that Hagerstown police illegally searched the bag after he left it in an apartment.

The divided court ruled that Leonard Bernard Owens of Fort Pierce, Fla., had a constitutional right to expect that the bag's contents were private, even though police had a warrant to search the apartment where it was found.


Mr. Owens made frequent trips from Florida to Hagerstown and often stayed in the apartment of a friend, according to court documents. On a trip in January 1988, he left a nylon bag at the woman's apartment. Hagerstown police later arrived with warrants to search the apartment.

In the course of their search, police rooted through his bag, finding plastic bags of crack stuffed in socks and $1,880 in cash.

In an opinion by Judge Charles E. Orth Jr., the four-judge majority held that the officers should have had a separate warrant to search the bag because it is "a common repository for one's personal effects, and, therefore, is inevitably associated with the expectation of privacy."

Judges Howard S. Chasanow, Lawrence F. Rodowsky and Marvin Smith dissented.

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