Oregon v. Newcomb
Orgon Supreme Court
359 Or. 756 (2016)
A law-enforcement officer received a report that Amanda Newcomb (defendant) was abusing and neglecting her dog, Juno. While the officer was speaking to Newcomb inside her apartment, he saw Juno. The officer testified that Juno looked to be in a near-emaciated condition. The officer noticed that Juno was eating random things in the yard and trying to vomit, but was only dry-heaving. The officer asked Newcomb why Juno was in this state. Newcomb responded that she had run out of food for Juno. The officer then concluded that he had probable cause to believe that Newcomb had neglected Juno. The officer asked Newcomb for permission to take Juno in for medical care. Newcomb refused and became irate, arguing that Juno was healthy. The officer then took custody of Juno without Newcomb’s consent. A veterinarian determined that Juno appeared to be emaciated. The veterinarian withdrew blood from Juno to determine whether Juno was emaciated due to a medical issue. The blood tests revealed no medical issues, so the veterinarian determined that Juno’s condition was due to malnourishment. Newcomb was then cited for second-degree animal neglect. Before trial, Newcomb moved to suppress the blood-test results arguing that the veterinarian had engaged in an unreasonable search of Newcomb’s property by drawing and testing Juno’s blood without a warrant. Newcomb argued that dogs are personal property under Oregon law, and the state (plaintiff) could examine only the exterior of seized property without a warrant. The prosecutor countered that although a dog is personal property, it is not a container and is not legally analogous to one. The prosecutor maintained a dog does not contain anything—instead, inside a dog is just more dog. The trial court denied Newcomb’s motion to suppress. The jury returned a guilty verdict against Newcomb. Newcomb appealed. The appeals court agreed with the lower court that Juno’s seizure was lawful, but disagreed that Juno’s blood could be tested without a warrant. The appeals court thus reversed Newcomb’s conviction. The case was reviewed by the state supreme court.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Linder, J.)
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