Superior Court Associate Judge Joseph N. Camacho helped train officers and personnel of the Division of Customs Services on proper search and seizure procedures yesterday.
Customs director Jose C. Mafnas joined more than 20 of the agency’s personnel and cadets at the Northern Marianas College in learning more about search and seizure and understanding probable cause, especially in situations where there is no time to get a written warrant.
Part of a Customs’ officer’s job is to screen and inspect the baggage and luggage of visitors, and other shipment that are coming in to make sure there’s no illegal contraband.
Camacho clarified that searches done without a warrant does not mean without probable cause. These involve border searches, consent, plain view, inventory/impounded vehicle, exigent circumstances, search incident to a lawful arrest, and search incident to an already lawful arrest involving a motor vehicle.
He also explained about the proper procedure when it comes to starting an investigation from the time they collect and present evidence to the trial that could lead to conviction.
Camacho also tested the officers and cadets’ decision-making and critical thinking skills where he gave them examples and situations on how to determine probable cause. He said a person is presumed innocent until proven guilty.
He then gave some pointers on courtroom demeanor and testimony before appearing in front of the court like avoiding the use of legalese or police lingo where as much as possible one must explain to the jury and judge the actual events that happened.
The training is part of Customs’ ongoing program of increasing the knowledge of its personnel and upgrading their skills, being the first line of defense in protecting the CNMI’s airport and seaport.
Camacho is a former police officer, prosecutor for the CNMI Attorney General’s Office, private practitioner, and a member of the House of Representatives before ascending to the bench in November 2011.