Unlawful search leads to acquittal



PHILIPSBURG – A man who was caught with counterfeit American dollars on March 13 of 2017 was acquitted of that charge due to an unlawful search by the police, but he received a 150 guilders fine in the Court in First Instance on Wednesday for the possession of a knuckle duster; a second suspect got off with a 40 hours of community service because he was found guilty of other charges.

Police officers stopped Francisco Francois Felicte Artsen in March of last year while he was driving on a scooter in Cay Bay because his passenger, Alberto Leonardo Lake, was not wearing a helmet. When officers searched the two men, they found the counterfeit money; Artsen also had a knuckle duster in his pocket, the police report stated.

But Artsen’s attorney Safira Ibrahim successfully contested the procedure the officers had followed. “They were stopped based on the traffic law and then searched because according to the police Cay Bay is a well-known area for drugs trafficking. The body search was unlawful and I therefore ask the court to exclude the counterfeit money and the knuckle duster from evidence.”

In case that argument wouldn’t fly, Ibrahim emphasized that her client had not known that the dollars were not genuine. She furthermore noted that the dossier does not show that her client had the knuckle duster.

Earlier, the public prosecutor told the court that Artsen was found in the possession of 970 counterfeit dollars, while his passenger Lake – who did not appear at his trial – carried 1,240 – also counterfeited – dollars. “They felt different, they looked different and all bank notes had the same serial number.”

The prosecutor said that he did not believe Artsen’s story that he had received the money from someone to whom he had sold a laptop.

The judge noted that at the time of the arrest there was no reasonable suspicion against the defendants for dealing drugs. “The police was therefore not authorized to search them,” he said. “The evidence has been obtained unlawfully. That is a serious procedural mistake. It is not allowed to search people just like that.”

The court acquitted Artsen of the counterfeit money-charge, but sentenced him for the knuckle duster to a fine of 150 guilders, to be replaced by one day in prison if he does not pay.

Lake was also acquitted of having had counterfeit money in his possession; for a burglary dating back to November 2016, the court sentenced him in his absence to 40 hours of community service.

Source: https://stmaartennews.com/judicial/unlawful-search-leads-acquittal/