NV: Booking inventory invalid for lack of inventory and officer’s lack of memory of doing it

The booking inventory of defendant’s “bag” was invalid because of a lack of true inventory. The booking officer didn’t list what was in it because there was just too much stuff. Moreover, at the suppression hearing, she didn’t recall even doing it. Suppression affirmed. State v. Nye, 136 Nev. Adv. Op. 48, 2020 Nev. LEXIS 49 (July 30, 2020):

Here, the booking deputy did not produce an inventory detailing the contents of Nye’s backpack, and the State does not contend that the confiscated drugs and drug paraphernalia constituted the only contents in Nye’s backpack, such that the entry of “bag” on the inventory list accurately reflected Nye’s belongings. Instead, the booking deputy testified that while she does not recall conducting this search, she explained that if there are too many items in a container, like Nye’s backpack, then the department’s general practice is to list the bulk item as “bag” without inventorying its individual contents. The arresting officer also testified that he could not recall all the items present in Nye’s backpack when he discovered the drugs and drug paraphernalia therein. Because we infer from this testimony that the backpack held more than the confiscated contraband, and because the booking deputy failed to generate an inventory of the backpack wherein the contraband was discovered, we conclude that the proffered inventory list “cannot be fairly and accurately described as a true inventory of [Nye’s] personal property.” Weintraub, 110 Nev. at 289, 871 P.2d at 340 (invalidating a similarly vague inventory following the search of a vehicle); see also Greenwald, 109 Nev. at 811, 858 P.2d at 38 (“If [the police officer] was not going to inventory these articles [found in the bag] (and he did not), why, one wonders, did he unzip the toiletry bag and search its contents?”).

Furthermore, the State’s reliance on the mere existence of the department’s policy, without putting forth evidence demonstrating the validity of this search pursuant to said policy, compels us to conclude that the State failed to establish that the booking deputy adhered to the department’s policy during the search of Nye’s backpack. See Lafayette, 462 U.S. at 647 (explaining that while “it is not our function to write a manual on administering routine, neutral procedures of the station house[,]” we nevertheless must “assure against violations of the Constitution”). Despite department policy requiring the booking deputy to conduct the inventory search in camera view, the State failed to introduce any video evidence depicting the booking deputy’s inspection of the backpack. The record is likewise devoid of any testimonial evidence describing this search. In addition, Nye did not sign the inventory receipt for the property stored, as required by the department’s policy, and the State failed to address this omission. Because we determine the State failed to show that the booking deputy conducted the search pursuant to standard procedure, it also cannot be said that the booking deputy’s search of Nye’s backpack adequately served the purpose of an inventory search. See Weintraub, 110 Nev. at 289, 871 P.2d at 340 (explaining that the purpose of an inventory search is to protect personal property, insulate officers from charges of theft, and expose any possible danger).

For these reasons, we hold that the search incident to arrest was invalid, and that the State failed to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that but for the officer’s unlawful search, the contraband would have been inevitably discovered through a lawful inventory search. See Camacho v. State, 119 Nev. 395, 402, 75 P.3d 370, 375 (2003) (explaining that the inevitable-discovery doctrine permits the introduction of evidence originally obtained by unconstitutional conduct if the prosecution establishes by a preponderance of the evidence that it would have been lawfully discovered). Accordingly, we affirm the district court’s order granting Nye’s suppression motion.

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