OPD questions car’s warrantless search and seizure


Claiming absence of any physical evidence connected to drug trafficking, the Office of the Public Defender is questioning the constitutionality of the warrantless search and seizure of a car that belongs to a man who is being charged with trafficking methamphetamine.

Assistant public defender Stephanie Boutsicaris, counsel for Xiao Ping Wang, said the unjustified seizure of Wang’s 2013 Toyota Corolla worth at least $6,000 was not only a constitutional violation but a flagrant abuse of police authority by the Drug Enforcement Task Force.

Boutsicaris asked the Superior Court to suppress all evidence and observations resulting from the search and seizure of the car, pursuant to Wang’s rights under the U.S. and CNMI constitutions.

The defense counsel said the car remains in police custody to this day.

The Office of the Attorney General had charged Wang with three counts of trafficking a controlled substance for allegedly selling “ice” to a Drug Enforcement Task Force’s “confidential source” during sting operations between December 2018 and February 2019.

Boutsicaris said that, according to the affidavits filed in this case, police had been investigating this matter since at least December 2018 and had plenty of time to make a request for a search warrant for the vehicle but did not do so.

“There is no evidence that the vehicle was being used at the time for drug trafficking or any other crimes,” she said, adding that there is no evidence that there was any sort of ongoing emergency involving the car.

Boutsicaris said that, according to the Drug Enforcement Task Force officer’s report, officers arrested Wang on Feb. 22, 2019, at 6:45pm on suspicion of drug trafficking.

Boutsicaris said photos disclosed in discovery show defendant in handcuffs in broad daylight and that he does not appear to be located anywhere near his car.

The lawyer said that, according to an inventory report written by an officer, an “inventory search” was conducted at the CNMI Drug Enforcement Task Force Office on Capitol Hill.

She said nothing is known about where the car was originally located when it was seized by officers.

Boutsicaris said nothing is known about how it was seized or the circumstances to justify its seizure.

She said many common every items were found inside the vehicle such as a charger, earphones, water bottles, and chewing gum.

The lawyer said there were also many improvement items such as a drill, some masking tape, and extension cords.

Boutsicaris said there were no scales, no small plastic bags, no paraphernalia, no large sums of money, and no illicit substances.

Boutsicaris said evidence and observations by police officers that have been acquired directly or indirectly as a result of an illegal search or seizure, or “the fruit of the poisonous tree,” is not admissible at trial against the defendant.

Ferdie De La Torre | Reporter
Ferdie Ponce de la Torre is a senior reporter of Saipan Tribune. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and has covered all news beats in the CNMI. He is a recipient of the CNMI Supreme Court Justice Award. Contact him at ferdie_delatorre@Saipantribune.com

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