Generally, the authorities in Arkansas and elsewhere cannot arrest someone who has a strange look or who is walking aimlessly in a public place. There must be some outward manifestation of antisocial or suspicious behavior to make police intervention justifiable. An incident occurred at the Walmart Supercenter in Jefferson County recently that may test that legal premise. A man was stopped in the store, searched and arrested on a charge of drug crimes, but the final verdict on whether it was a valid arrest is uncertain.
An unidentified caller reported that a man who “appeared” to be intoxicated was walking in the Supercenter. Police located and questioned the man, who allegedly said he did not know how he got in the store and was looking for his ride. The officer apparently told the district judge that the man was unable to stand straight, did not know his name or the current year.
Based on those observations, the officer apparently placed the man under arrest for public intoxication. The officer allegedly did a pat-down search for weapons and found a plastic bag containing 19 grams of methamphetamine. The officer alleged that the substance field tested positive for the drug.
At a probable cause hearing, the judge ruled that the officer had probable cause to charge the man with possession of a controlled substance. Records later showed that the man is allegedly on parole. Public defenders were appointed to represent him. Defense counsel will now investigate to determine the step-by-step scenario of what took place.
It is generally unconstitutional in Arkansas and elsewhere for an officer to stop someone without a reasonable suspicion of criminal activity. However, there does come a point where a person’s appearance, demeanor and gait may establish a reasonable suspicion of public intoxication. Where the pat-down search is done properly, drugs found in that procedure may be admissible against the defendant in a drug crimes prosecution. Nonetheless, the story of this arrest gives off a slight aura of overreaching, which is something that only defense counsel can decide after obtaining a detailed account of the facts.
Source: pbcommercial.com, “Bond set in alleged drug arrest“, Ray King, Sept. 13, 2016