S.D.N.Y.: 49 day delay in cell phone search was presumptively unreasonable, but totality of circumstances favored govt

Balancing the factors of a delay in a cell phone search of 49 days, the length is presumptively unreasonable but the other factors all favor the government. Motion to suppress denied. United States v. Wells, 2023 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 30720 (S.D.N.Y. Feb. 23, 2023).

The officer conducting the inventory was generally unaware of the policy, and the search was conducted broadly. (The policy even mentioned seizing things of evidentiary value, and they were looking for a possible firearm since it was known he might have one.) “The officers also demonstrated that their understanding of the inventory search policy exceeded the written parameters of Directive 406.3 and resulted in searches that exceeded constitutional limitations. Hohenberger testified he did not believe there are any limits on where he could search in a car, or how he could search. …. Similarly, Balboa testified she was not aware of any guidance on the method of conducting an inventory search and that officers had ‘complete discretion’ on how they would search.” The policy wasn’t followed because it was unknown to the officer, and it was almost as broad as could be. The inventory is suppressed. United States v. Thomas, 2023 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 31357 (N.D. Ohio Feb. 24, 2023).

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