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AG Donovan challenges warrantless federal search in state case

Published: Aug. 13, 2020 at 4:30 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 13, 2020 at 5:07 PM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Vermont's attorney general is stepping into a state supreme court case for what he says is protection of Vermonters' rights.

After two years of fighting, the case in which a Vermont couple’s car was allegedly searched without probable cause by border is now going to state court.

And the Attorney General, T.J. Donovan is on the couple’s side. In a brief filed with the Vermont Supreme Court, Attorney General T.J. Donovan is arguing that the search is against the Vermont state’s constitution since it happened without probably cause. Although it is legal federally. The couple was returning home to Richford from the Canadian border when their car was searched for and discovered of illegal drugs.

This issue is whether state criminal charges can stem from a vehicle search conducted by federal agents without a search warrant. Federal law allows searches based only on probable cause, but Vermont law requires a search warrant.

Attorney General TJ Donovan is standing against the federal agents. He argues any charges stemming from a warrant-less search should be thrown out. “Those issues are state issues and if the federal government wants to add a helping hand, that’s fine. My position is this, you gotta play by the state rules if you go into state court,” Donovan said.

“The reason it’s unique is because the attorney general is the top law enforcement officer in the state of Vermont and yet what Attorney General Donovan is saying is that even though law enforcement wants evidence in cases, that evidence still has to be gained or obtained consistent with the Vermont Constitution,” said Jared Carter, a professor at the Vermont Law School.

Donovan has filed a brief in a case before the Vermont Supreme Court that seeks to have a state drug case thrown out because the evidence was obtained by federal agents conducted without a warrant.

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