ANALYSIS OF FEBRUARY 24, 2009 CAV OPINIONS
[Posted February 24, 2009] For the third week in a row, we get three published opinions from the Court of appeals. All three of todays rulings are in the field of criminal law, and (Im going to ruin the suspense here) all three end badly for the appellants.
Last year, the Supreme Court ruled, in Glenn v. Commonwealth, that the police could search a backpack found inside a house, after they got the consent of the homeowner to search the house. Today, in
The officer asked who the backpack belonged to.
The first issue in this case is whether the drivers consent to the search of the car was sufficient to include consent to search someone elses backpack. The Glenn ruling last year confirmed that unless the officer has reason to know that the pack doesnt belong to the person giving the consent, then he has the green light to search it. But how about this situation, where another person claims to own it?
The next case is one of those rulings thats going to sound like an obvious conclusion, but the appellants contention is ingenious enough that it requires a detailed refutation by the court (and a published opinion, so that no one else can try this approach). The case is Ratliff v. Commonwealth , and involves a driver who was under the influence of drugs while behind the wheel.
Theres no question that the gendarmes got the right person; Ratliff was admittedly the person who crossed into oncoming traffic and clipped a motorcycle, seriously injuring two people. State law makes it a felony to cause serious injury by driving while intoxicated, so Ratliff was staring at prison time. But her lawyer noted that intoxicated, as defined in the Alcoholic Beverage laws (Title 4.1 of the Code) doesnt specifically include being under the influence of drugs; it deals with consumption of alcohol. Ratliffs blood test showed that she hadnt been drinking, so her lawyer contended that the statute didnt apply to her.
No dice, the Court of Appeals holds today. That may be the definition in the ABC laws; but it doesnt control the interpretation under Title 18.2 (Crimes). And those statutes, read in their entirety, clearly encompass intoxication by drug consumption.