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FIRST IMPRESSIONS–CRIMINAL LAW: Does a warrant to search a residence extend to a visitor’s pur

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In State v. Merritt, the 4th Court recently decided a case of first impression in Texas courts. Law enforcement officers obtained a valid search warrant to search a suspect’s residence for marijuana. When the officers were executing the search warrant, the defendant visiting the residence. An officer searched the defendant’s purse, which was located in the same area where Merritt was at, and found evidence of a possession of a controlled substance. The trial court granted Merritt’s motion to suppress.

The State appealed, arguing the search of the purse fell within the scope of the search warrant. Noting that jurisdictions have developed three different tests to analyze whether a search of a visitor’s belongings falls within the scope of a search warrant (the possession, relationship, and actual-notice tests), the majority adopted the possession test and held that because the purse was not in Merritt’s possession at the time of the search, the search was valid. The concurrence would have upheld the search without adopting any of the three tests and instead analyzed the issue under Wyoming v. Houghton.

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