Las Vegas Sun

December 20, 2014

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Court panel rules warrantless search in NLV drug case was legal

CARSON CITY — A federal appeals court panel has ruled that North Las Vegas police had the right without a warrant to search the car of a drug suspect where they discovered a handgun and an estimated 250 grams of cocaine.

The decision overturns U.S. District Judge Philip Pro’s ruling in favor of Lomando M. Scott, who said the search was illegal and the evidence should be suppressed.

Scott was indicted on charges of drug distribution charges and being a felon in possession of a weapon.

Pro ruled the drugs and gun could not be admitted into evidence because government prosecutors did not submit briefs challenging the defense motion by the required deadline.

Scott said the failure of the government to submit a timely opposition put him at a disadvantage. But the government argued the evidence should be allowed.

The three-judge panel of the appeals court warned the U.S. Attorney’s Office it does not “in any way condone the government’s policy of deliberately disregarding filing deadlines to incorporate facts raised during the hearing into its brief.”

It said “permitting this sort of strategic disrespect for the rules will disadvantage both defendants and the court.”

But the panel said the government raised the issue of the warrantless search during the oral evidentiary hearing on the motion to suppress the evidence. Its failure to submit the timely brief was excused.

In August 2010, a constable went to Scott’s home to serve a writ. According to court records, upon entering the home, he smelled marijuana. Police were called and discovered $10,000 in cash in Scott’s pockets and a significant amount of drugs and drug paraphernalia in the home. They then searched the car and discovered the other evidence.

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