Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Law and Argument: Part D

D. The Defendants’ Vehicle was Subject to a Lawful Inventory Search.

It is common practice and typically a police department regulation for vehicles taken into custody to be subject to an inventory search. “Inventory searches have two purposes: To protect the vehicle and the property in it, and to safeguard the police or other officers from claims of lost possessions.” United States v. Ducker, 491 F.2d 1190 (5th Cir.1974).

It is thus customary for an inventory to extend to all parts of the car where personal property might be found, and to include an inventory of containers found within the vehicle.” See United States v, Davis, 496 F.2d 1026 ( Cir. 1974). The United States Supreme Court, in South Dakota v. Opperman, 428 U.S. 364, 96 S.Ct. 3092, 49 L.Ed.2d 1000 (1976), referenced a “diminished” expectation of privacy as to automobiles and of the reasons customarily given for police inventory of impounded vehicles and concluded that “the decisions of this Court point unmistakably to the conclusion reached by both federal and state courts that inventories pursuant to standard police procedures are reasonable.”

Furthermore, the United States Supreme Court has upheld a warrantless search of an automobile even though the automobile was in police custody and even though a prior inventory search had already been made. The justification to conduct such a warrantless search does not vanish once the car has been immobilized. Florida v. Meyers, 466 U.S. 380; 104 S. Ct. 1852; 80 L.Ed. 2d 381 (1984). In Meyers, upon the defendanfs arrest, the police officers searched his car and seized several items. His car was then towed to another location and impounded in a locked, secure area. About eight hours later, a police officer conducted a warrantless search of the car for a second time and seized additional evidence. At trial, the trial court denied defendant’s motion to suppress evidence seized during the second search and entered a conviction for sexual battery. The state appellate court reversed the conviction, holding that the second search violated the Fourth Amendment, concluding that only police officers who had probable cause to believe there was contraband inside a stopped car could search it without a warrant. The element of mobility was removed because defendant’s vehicle had been impounded. The state Supreme Court denied review. On certiorari, the United States Supreme Court held that a warrantless search of an impounded car was constitutional. In reversing, the Court determined that the state appellate Court’s ruling was clearly inconsistent with precedent, which emphasized that the justification to conduct a warrantless search did not vanish once a car was immobilized.

In the present case, the Defendants were apprehended on Virginia Beach Blvd. and taken into custody As such, the vehicle the Defendants were occupying was driven back to the Virginia Beach Police Department Special Investigations Division by Detective Bailey and secured where it was subject to an inventory search by Detective Matthew Childress and another Detective pursuant to department regulations.