CT: Automobile exception still applied even though def was arrested 500′ from car

Defendant was arrested 500′ from his car. The car was still subject to the automobile exception because there was enough connection. He still had the keys on him. State v. Griffin, 2023 Conn. App. LEXIS 8 (Jan. 24, 2023):

Moreover, the police officers had substantial evidence tying the defendant to the particular vehicle they searched because the key fob found on the defendant operated the vehicle’s lights, the vehicle was located less than 500 yards from where the defendant was arrested, and it was registered to someone directly connected to the defendant, his foster mother. Accordingly, the police officers had ample evidence to infer that this was the vehicle that the defendant had driven to the scene so that he could complete a nearby narcotics transaction. The fact that no police officer observed the defendant in or near the vehicle at that precise moment does not undermine in any way the strong factual nexus between the defendant and this vehicle.

The police officers had a reasonable basis to conclude that there was a fair probability of finding contraband or evidence of a crime in the defendant’s vehicle. The defendant’s vehicle was found by the police within five minutes of his arrest. They knew that the defendant had arrived in his vehicle to sell drugs, and he had cocaine and marijuana on his person when he was taken into custody. From these facts, it was reasonable to infer that his vehicle may contain additional contraband or other evidence regarding the sale of illegal drugs. Moreover, the police could smell the odor of marijuana emanating from the vehicle. See State v. Brito, supra, 170 Conn. App. 313-15. All of these facts, considered in their totality, amply support a conclusion that probable cause existed to search the defendant’s vehicle.

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