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Media > Newsletters > Law Enforcement Bulletin > June 2013 > State v. Cruz, Eighth District Court of Appeals (Cuyahoga County), May 9, 2013

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State v. Cruz, Eighth District Court of Appeals (Cuyahoga County), May 9, 2013

Question: Can officers search a vehicle that leaves a premises that they have a warrant to search?
Quick Answer: No. A search warrant is limited to the immediate premises it describes.

Facts: Andres Cruz was running a drug operation through his pizza shop, receiving large amounts of cocaine and heroin. Officers made controlled buys against Cruz and ultimately got a search warrant for Cruz’s residence. While the officers were preparing to execute the warrant, Cruz left the house. He was tailed by officers, lost briefly, reacquired, stopped, and placed under arrest. The officers traced Cruz’s vehicle back and eventually found a purse containing nearly a kilo of cocaine and a third of a kilo of heroin that had been thrown out of Cruz’s Trailblazer.
Why this case is important: Although these events took place in 2010, the Eighth District Court of Appeals applied a recent U.S. Supreme Court case, Bailey v. U.S., and found that the search of Cruz’s vehicle — which occurred far from the premises listed in the search warrant — was unconstitutional. However, although the search of the vehicle (and the statements obtained from Cruz during it) was unconstitutional, the court found that the convictions were supported by sufficient evidence because 1) the purse containing the drugs had been “abandoned,” and therefore it wasn’t unconstitutionally seized or searched, and 2) the search of the house was proper because it was covered by the warrant.
Keep in mind: When executing a premises-based search warrant (that is, one that allows you to search a particular house or apartment), you are limited to the premises and the very-near surrounding area. If a suspect has left the area, a premises-based search warrant does not allow you to stop and search them. Of course, if you execute a search warrant and a suspect flees from the premises, you may be able to pursue them under your agency’s pursuit policies.
View the Ohio Eighth District Court of Appeals website to view the entire opinion.