Skip navigation
× You have 2 more free articles available this month. Subscribe today.

Idaho Arrestees Act Voluntarily When Declining Opportunity to Surrender Contraband Before Entering Jail

by Mark Wilson

On July 15, 2020, the Idaho Supreme Court held that an arrestee acts voluntarily when given an opportunity to surrender contraband before entering jail but chooses to continue possessing it.

On January 20, 2018, Idaho Falls Police arrested Nicole Lyn Gneiting on drug charges. Police felt a “hard, bulgy object” on the inside of her upper thigh while frisking her. Gneiting claimed it was a sanitary napkin. She began adjusting her pants and police instructed her to stop, but she continued “messing with her pants.”

Strongly believing that Gneiting possessed illegal contraband, police asked several times whether she had anything illegal on her and warned that she would face additional charges if she brought contraband into the jail. Gneiting repeatedly denied having anything illegal.

The arresting officer told jail staff that she felt an object in Gneiting’s pants and believed it was narcotics. Jail staff asked Gneiting if she had anything illegal on her. She again denied that she did.

After Gneiting repeatedly refused to voluntarily submit to a strip search, jail staff compelled her to strip. They recovered a white paper envelope containing 31.41 grams of methamphetamine from between her legs.

Gneiting was charged with felony trafficking in methamphetamine (more than 28 grams but less than 200 grams), felony possession of major contraband within a correctional facility, and other drug charges. Following a four-day jury trial, she was convicted and sentenced to a 13-year prison term.

The Idaho Supreme Court affirmed, rejecting Gneiting’s argument that she did not knowingly possess major contraband in a correctional facility, because she did not enter the jail voluntarily.

Noting that it had “not yet addressed whether an arrestee who involuntarily enters a correctional facility has nonetheless voluntarily possessed contraband within the facility when she makes the decision to continue to conceal drugs on her person after being warned that doing so will constitute a separate offense,” the Court noted that “the majority of states” have concluded that an arrestee does voluntarily possess contraband under those circumstances.

The Court rejected Gneiting’s request to adopt the reasoning of Oregon and Washington courts, which reached a contrary conclusion. See: State v. Tippetts, 43 P3d 455 (Or Ct App 2002); and State v. Eaton, 177 P3d 157 (Wash 2008).

“Tippetts and Eaton are distinguishable from the majority view, and from the facts of the present case,” the Court concluded. Unlike the defendants in those cases, “Gneiting was given multiple chances to choose between turning over the contraband or taking it with her into the jail.” As such, the Court adopted “the majority view” and held “that an arrestee acts voluntarily when they are given an opportunity to give up any contraband before being taken into a correctional facility but chooses to continue to possess the contraband.” See: State v. Gneiting, 468 P.3d 263 LEXIS

As a digital subscriber to Prison Legal News, you can access full text and downloads for this and other premium content.

Subscribe today

Already a subscriber? Login

Related legal case

State v. Gneiting