S.D.Fla.: A car broken down on the highway was still “readly mobile” enough for the automobile exception to apply

A car broken down on the highway was still “readly mobile” enough for the automobile exception to apply. United States v. Ortiz-Santizo, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 128710 (S.D. Fla. Aug. 14, 2017):

Ortiz-Santizo’s arguments fail. First, none of the facts recited by Ortiz-Santizo establish or even suggest that the car was “clearly” non-operational or immovable. Instead, the car had obviously just recently been operational and moving as it had just been traveling on I-95. Moreover, Ortiz-Santizo informed the officers that he had just spent a lot of money getting the car fixed and there appeared to be some sort of electronic issue. There was no evidence presented that an observer could discern, just by looking at the car, that it was inoperable. Instead, based on the evidence presented, the car “reasonably appear[ed] to be capable of functioning.” United States v. Nixon, 918 F.2d 895, 903 (11th Cir. 1990) (noting that “the requirement of exigent circumstances is satisfied by the ‘ready mobility’ inherent in all automobiles that reasonably appear to be capable of functioning”) (emphasis added).

That Ortiz-Santizo was already in custody is of no moment for “[t]he mobility requirement focuses on whether the vehicle is capable of functioning, not whether it is likely to move in the near future.” United States v. Garcia, 433 F. App’x 741, 744-45 (11th Cir. 2011); see also United States v. Haynes, 301 F.3d 669, 678 (6th Cir. 2002) (finding vehicle “readily mobile” despite the defendant’s having already been taken into custody). The Government presented evidence through Detective Muvdi, and unrebutted by Ortiz-Santizo, that at least in early August 2017, the car was indeed functioning and for sale. The Court need not assess “the likelihood in each particular case that the car would have been driven away, or that its contents would have been tampered with, during the period required for the police to obtain a warrant.” Michigan v. Thomas, 458 U.S. 259, 261, 102 S. Ct. 3079, 73 L. Ed. 2d 750 (1982). And, in any event, in the unique circumstances in this case, the Defendant had already made arrangements to have the car towed by the time the police made contact with him. In fact, the car was towed by the truck Ortiz-Santizo had summoned prior to the canine unit even arriving on scene. Thus the car, in this case, was readily movable, and indeed was moved, despite the car not being able to, at that very moment, travel under its own power.

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