Illegal Police Purse Search Puts Frown on Woman's Face

Jones: The happiness would come later
Jones: The happiness would come later

Theresa Ann Jones clearly wasn't happy in her August 12, 2011 mug shot.

On that day, police in Orange County stopped a vehicle leaving a motel parking lot known for drug activity.

Because the driver had no valid license, the cops took him into custody and were going to let Jones take the vehicle.

An officer grabbed Jones' purse from inside the vehicle with the intent to inspect her license, looked inside and found 0.3 grams of cocaine.

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The cops arrested Jones and 14 months later she pleaded guilty of possession of a controlled substance.

She later had a change of heart and appealed. Her lawyer argued that the conviction was unconstitutional because police had no legal cause to open her purse without permission under the circumstances.

In late June, a California Court of Appeal based in Santa Ana agreed. The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution bans unreasonable police intrusions. The justices reversed the conviction and remanded the case back to a superior court judge to reopen the case and this time block the introduction of the illegally obtained cocaine evidence.

Upshot: Jones, 47, won a victory but only after she'd already served her nine-month jail punishment.

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