The Wisconsin Supreme Court issues a pair of rulings which allow certain warrantless vehicle searches by police. In one case, Michael Littlejohn was arrested for driving with a revoked license. Officers searched Littlejohn’s locked car and found marijuana and cocaine. A search of the locked trunk revealed more marijuana, cocaine, and drug paraphernalia. Based on this evidence, the police obtained a warrant to search Littlejohn’s residence, where they found additional incriminating evidence.
A similar case involved Michael Dearborn who was arrested by a DNR warden who then found marijuana in Dearborn’s locked vehicle. Both men were handcuffed in squad cars when the searches took place, and the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled such searches are unconstitutional. The state Supreme Court rulings admit that both searches were unconstitutional, but because officers were acting in good faith under the law at the time, the evidence obtained should not be suppressed. Both rulings were 5-2 split decisions with Chief Justice Shirley S. Abrahamson and Justice Ann Walsh Bradley dissenting.