AL: Lack of an inventory sheet fatal to the state’s claim the search was valid as an inventory

The lack of an inventory sheet fatal to the state’s claim the search was valid as an inventory. Keith v. State, 2017 Ala. Crim. App. LEXIS 14 (March 17, 2017):

The record in the present case contains the same defects that rendered the search in Boyd unconstitutional. Although the State elicited testimony from Officer Elmore regarding the police department’s inventory-search policy, that testimony was limited. Officer Elmore testified that it was the department’s policy to inventory a vehicle before it is towed “[t]o make sure that everything that [the arrestee] says is in the vehicle is still in there.” (R1. 8.) Elmore testified that he completed the inventory and created an inventory list; however, he did not have the list with him at the hearing and it is not contained in the record before this Court. The State did not elicit any testimony regarding where a copy of the department’s policy could be found, the particular criteria for conducting an inventory search contained in the policy, and whether Officer Elmore followed that criteria when he conducted the search of Keith’s vehicle. Similar to Boyd, the lack of evidence presented by the State at the suppression hearing prevents us from being able to review the reasonableness of the officer’s search. Accordingly, we hold that the purported inventory search of Keith’s vehicle violated the Fourth Amendment and cannot be upheld.

This is actually a good rule because what better way to prove that the inventory was actually just a “general rummaging” than the police never made an inventory. They hardly ever do around here, but I can’t get anywhere on that because there’s usually already probable cause by that time.

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