N.D.Iowa: Less intrusive measures to impoundment are not constitutionally required

The discretionary decision to impound defendant’s RV was reasonable under the Fourth Amendment. The officer’s primary concern was arresting the driver for an outstanding warrant, not searching the vehicle. It would have been left on a rural road and posed a safety hazard as well as there being a risk it would be broken into. The fact defendant’s husband was an over-the-road truck driver and who just got into town off a road trip and was thus available by phone wasn’t determinative. Less intrusive measures to impoundment are not constitutionally required. United States v. Morris, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 129749 (N.D. Iowa Feb. 10, 2017), adopted, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 129317 (N.D. Iowa Aug. 15, 2017):

I find that Deputy Taylor followed the sheriff’s office’s policy in deciding to impound Defendant’s RV. Two conditions that allow for impoundment existed in this case: the driver had been arrested and there was no other available driver, and the RV posed a hazard. Each of these conditions serve legitimate law enforcement functions of community caretaking and providing for public safety. Defendant does not challenge the validity of her arrest. Rather, she argues that Deputy Taylor erred in determining that no other driver was available and that the vehicle posed a hazard. Defendant contends that Deputy Taylor’s decision was based solely on an investigatory motive. In determining whether the conditions of the sheriff’s office’s impoundment policy were met, Deputy Taylor was allowed to exercise discretion based on legitimate concerns related to the purposes of impoundment. See Arrocha, 713 F.3d at 1163.

With regard to the availability of another driver, Deputy Taylor acknowledged that he did not provide Defendant an opportunity to contact someone else to come to the scene and take the RV. Nothing in the law required Deputy Taylor to do so. See Beal, 430 F.3d at 954; Agofsky, 20 F.3d at 873. Deputy Taylor first testified that under the impound policy, when a driver had an active warrant and no one else was available to come to the scene, the vehicle would be towed. He further testified that in practice, another “available” driver meant a driver already on the scene. This appears to be a discrepancy, but for the reasons stated above, I found Deputy Taylor’s testimony about the standard practices of the sheriff’s office to be credible. Deputy Taylor testified that deputies generally did not allow arrestees to make other arrangements when they were the sole occupant of the vehicle. Furthermore, he testified that based on his experience, it is often impractical to wait for another person to arrive at the scene to retrieve a vehicle. I find that Deputy Taylor acted in conformity with the policy and practices of the sheriff’s office in deciding to impound the vehicle due to Defendant’s arrest. This includes his decision not to allow Defendant to arrange for another driver to come to the scene. To the extent that the determination of availability of another driver involved the exercise of discretion, I find that Deputy Taylor provided legitimate reasons for not waiting to see if another driver could come to the scene in a reasonable amount of time.

Defendant’s arrest was not the sole basis for impoundment in this case; Deputy Taylor also believed the RV posed a hazard. …

This entry was posted in Inventory. Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.