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U.S. Supreme Court reinstates Va. drug conviction

A unanimous U.S. Supreme Court ruled today that the illegality of a search under Virginia law does not require the suppression of evidence seized during the search.

Writing for the court in Virginia v. Moore, Justice Antonin Scalia said in that the high court long has held that probable cause to arrest justifies a search. Virginia is free to make exclusion of evidence seized in violation of Virginia Code Sect. 19.2-74(A)(1) a remedy for an arrest that is illegal under state law but allowed by the Fourth Amendment, Scalia said. The state has not done so, however, and the Fourth Amendment cannot be used as a remedy for an act that does not violate the constitution, he wrote.

The case from Portsmouth involved the arrest of David Lee Moore on a charge of driving without an operator’s license, a misdemeanor for which state law required his release on a summons. Although the attorney general’s office conceded that he was arrested in violation of state law, it contended that the search did not violate the Fourth Amendment because police had probable cause to search Moore. The search produced 16 grams of crack cocaine and $516 in cash. Moore was sentenced to 3 1/2 years in prison.

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