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Charges to be dropped in Portland gun case

Portland police are often asked to take small amounts of evidence and piece together a crime. In some cases, the scenario is easier to recreate and police have a solid case. In other situations, the police can reach for any information they can find and try to charge someone with a crime. When the police use circumstantial evidence, it's easy for someone to be wrongly accused of committing a crime.

In Portland, an 18-year-old African American man was charged with two misdemeanor crimes -- carrying a concealed weapon without a permit and possession of a loaded firearm in the city of Portland -- after police found a gun in a backpack. According to police, the backpack did not contain any identification, but did contain a hair-pick.

Police assumed that the gun belonged to the man after spotting him and three Hispanic men in a van around 10 to 15 feet away from where the backpack was found. Police admitted that they believed the backpack must belong to the man since his hair was thicker than the other three men.

However, as part of the man's criminal defense strategy, the man and his attorney's asked that this evidence be thrown out. They argued that police had no probable cause to link the man to the hair-pick, and that he should not be arrested on stereotypes alone. The judge in the case agreed with the man and suppressed the evidence. Prosecutors have said they will now drop the case altogether.

This case provides an important example of how the right criminal defense tactics can lead to a positive outcome for those accused. By getting evidence thrown out, people may have the chance to reduce or eliminate the charges. In order to make these arguments, however, people need to understand their legal rights before, during and after their arrest.

Source: The Oregonian, "Portland hair-pick arrest of black man unlawful, judge says," Aimee Green, Dec. 20, 2013

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