Post details: IA: Mixed motive for inventory does not make it unreasonable if it was otherwise objectively reasonable

04/10/10

Permalink 08:47:07 am, by fourth, 587 words, 505 views   English (US)
Categories: General

IA: Mixed motive for inventory does not make it unreasonable if it was otherwise objectively reasonable

Defendant was stopped when he pulled into a driveway. He was arrested for not having a DL, and the passenger didn’t have one either. He was allowed to call somebody to pick up his dog. Defendant claimed to know the people where he stopped, but nobody came to the door when the officer knocked. So, he decided to have the vehicle towed. The inventory was objectively valid, even if there was a mixed motive for it. State v. Dank, 2010 Iowa App. LEXIS 280 (April 8, 2010):

"The legality of an inventory search depends on two overlapping inquiries: the validity of the impoundment and the scope of the inventory." Huisman, 544 N.W.2d at 436. If either is unreasonable, the search violates the Fourth Amendment and any evidence discovered in the search must be suppressed. Jackson, 542 N.W.2d at 845. Dank did not challenge the scope of the inventory. Rather, she challenged the validity of the decision to impound her truck. We look for the existence of reasonable standardized procedures and a purpose other than the investigation of criminal activity when examining the officer's decision to impound. Huisman, 544 N.W.2d at 437. This analysis is intended to prevent courts from second-guessing professional judgments of busy police officers who are faced with the practical realities of limited time and expertise to make such judgments. Id. We utilize an objective test--"whether, when viewed objectively, an administrative reason for impoundment existed." Id. at 439-40.

The Polk County Sheriff's Department has a written inventory procedure. This procedure required impoundment when a deputy makes an arrest and the person arrested is the driver of the vehicle. The policy has a number of exceptions. One provides impoundment is not necessary if the owner of the vehicle is present and has a valid driver's license. Another states impoundment is not necessary if the arrest is made on private property, the legal owner of the vehicle is present, and the vehicle can be left with the approval of the property owner. Neither Dicks, the driver, nor Dank, the vehicle owner, had a valid driver's license. No one was present to consent to leaving the vehicle on the property.

"[A]n impoundment is unconstitutional if it is done to investigate suspected criminal activity." Id. at 439. Where an administrative purpose exists to impound the vehicle, the impound is proper even if the officers are partially motivated by a belief the vehicle may contain contraband. Id. Dank alleges the impoundment of her vehicle was a mere pretext for an investigatory search for drugs. Our review finds otherwise. Although Funaro said he saw Dank crawl into the back seat and found this suspicious, this was after he had initiated the traffic stop. Funaro started the inventory search and discovered drug paraphernalia. He then called for assistance. The fact the inventory search took place at the scene rather than after towing the vehicle is not significant. ... The Polk County policy called for an impound inventory at the scene and Huisman recognizes the validity of such a search unless the policy states otherwise. See id. at 439-40 (noting "[i]f the officers could have had a caretaking reason to impound the car, then we assume they did not act solely to investigate criminal activity"). Polk County's policy states: "Impound inventories should be made at the place of arrest" and further instructs the officer to call a supervisor if illegal substances are found during an inventory search. We conclude the deputy complied with the department policy and the search was not motivated solely by an investigatory purpose.

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