State v. Hutchison

In State v. Hutchison, 56 Wn. App. 863, 785 P.2d 1154 (1990), police encountered Hutchison lying unconscious on his back in a parking lot and searched his person for identification and information on his condition. In the course of the search, the officer discovered a controlled substance. Hutchison was charged with two counts of possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver. At the pretrial suppression hearing, the trial court suppressed the evidence on the ground no medical emergency or exigent circumstances existed to justify the warrantless search. The Court of Appeals reversed, saying: It has been recognized and accepted in numerous federal and state court decisions that police officers modernly are expected to render aid and assistance on a regular basis to persons who, although perhaps not in need of immediate professional medical treatment, are in danger and in need of help. Searches performed as a part of providing such aid, if reasonable and in good faith, are generally allowed. In this instance, it is undisputed that at the time of the search, Hutchison was in need of aid and assistance. Officer Blair had a reasonable and legitimate concern that Hutchison would be in danger if abandoned in the parking lot. The trial court found that the officer did not search Hutchison for criminal investigatory purposes but in an effort to determine what should be done with him. Id. at 865, 867.