Post details: MO: Inventory was pretext: search too intense, officer wrote nothing down, video of search showed no effective inventory

11/01/12

Permalink 06:09:45 pm, by fourth, 501 words, 581 views   English (US)
Categories: General

MO: Inventory was pretext: search too intense, officer wrote nothing down, video of search showed no effective inventory

Removing the gearshift boot from a car as a part of an inventory search showed it was really a criminal search. Also, when the officer was conducting the inventory, she had no pen and paper in hand suggesting that there was no inventory. The video of the inventory process also was relied upon. State v. Williams, 382 S.W.3d 232 (Mo. App. 2012):

Although we do not have the inventory report itself, from Officer Laffoon's cross-examination we know that she also failed to document all of the valuable property found within the vehicle. According to Officer Laffoon's testimony, and as depicted in the video recording, two cell phones found in the vehicle were returned to Williams. The Kansas City Police Department inventory policy provides that "[p]roperty other than evidence and contraband may be released at the scene by the officer to a responsible person. Release information on the reverse side of the Physical Evidence/Property Inventory Report, Form 236 P.D., will be completed prior to releasing the property." Despite the explicit requirement to document the release of property to third parties, Officer Laffoon admitted on cross-examination that "no, it doesn't look like [the cell phones] ended up being listed on there."

We also note that the dashboard video recording makes clear that Officer Laffoon "did not have a pen, [and] did not write anything down" as she conducted her search. United States v. Garcia-Medina, No. 2:11-CR-545-TC, 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 80620, 2012 WL 23597765, at *4 (D. Utah Aug. 20, 2012). Although Officer Laffoon told Officer Henry that she should be the only person physically searching the vehicle's interior, she did not complete the inventory form. According to Officer Laffoon, Officer Henry completed the form, "[m]ore than likely" based on what she told him. The video recording reflects that Officer Henry did not ask Officer Laffoon whether she had Tow-In reports in her patrol car until fifteen minutes after the search had begun. The fact that Officer Laffoon had no device to actually document the property she was uncovering, and that fifteen minutes elapsed before Officer Henry began the process of documenting whatever he listed, are additional factors indicating that this was not a true inventory.

Officer Laffoon's failure to completely and accurately document the property found in Williams' vehicle as required by the Kansas City Police Department inventory policy, and the behavior indicating that her objective was not to prepare an exhaustive property listing, are highly significant in determining whether this was a bona fide inventory search. "The policy or practice governing inventory searches should be designed to produce an inventory.'" Florida v. Wells, 495 U.S. 1, 4, 110 S. Ct. 1632, 109 L. Ed. 2d 1 (1990) (emphasis added). The underlying purpose of an inventory search is (or at least should be) to produce a report documenting the nature, and condition, of property being impounded, to protect the police department from spurious claims of lost or damaged property. Investigating officers' failure to properly record the property they find is a significant consideration in determining the bona fides of the inventory.

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