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TOPIC: Re:Vehicle inventory question
#78371
Burgers Allday (User)
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Vehicle inventory question 2 Years, 11 Months ago  
the court said that the search was not a vehicle inventory. here is the court's analysis:

QUOTE:
Because the State failed to establish the content of any standardized or established routine procedure for an inventory search promulgated by the Sheriff's Department, it necessarily follows that the State failed to show that the search of Oram's car was conducted in accordance with any standardized procedure. Moreover, even if the State had established that the search was otherwise conducted in accordance with a reasonable standardized procedure for conducting an inventory search, suppression would still be required because the State failed to show that the deputies created an actual inventory list of the items found in the car. Indeed, the form used as the inventory list was the tow report. The form failed to list any items found in Oram's car. "The policy or practice governing inventory searches should be designed to produce inventory." Wells, 495 U.S. at 4.
Because the deputies failed to document any items found in the alleged inventory search, it tends to show that the purpose of the search of the car was "a general rummaging in order to discover incriminating evidence." See Wells, 495 U.S. at 4. Moreover, the deputies' motivation to conduct a generalized search for evidence of a crime is evidenced by their testimony. For example, in testifying that he intended to conduct a generalized search to discover evidence of criminal activity, Deputy Shane Mellot testified:
"[Oram's Attorney]: . . . I believe you testified in the preliminary hearing of this case; correct?
"[Deputy Mellot]: Correct.
"[Oram's Attorney]: And you testified at that time in a search incident to arrest was—was effected on the car; is that correct?
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"[Deputy Mellot]: Correct.
"[Oram's Attorney]: And no warrant was attempted prior to that search; correct?
"[Deputy Mellot]: Negative." (Emphasis added.)
Although Deputy Andrew Carver testified that he intended to conduct both an inventory search and a generalized search for evidence of a crime, he testified that his initial motivation was to search for contraband and weapons:
"[Oram's Attorney]: And, eventually, you did a search of the car incident to arrest; correct?
"[Deputy Carver]: No.
"[Oram's Attorney]: We heard testimony earlier from the officer that it was a search incident to arrest. Are you saying it wasn't now?
"[Deputy Carver]: There were two reasons to search the vehicle, so—
"[Oram's Attorney]: At the preliminary hearing, didn't you agree that you were doing a search incident to arrest?
"[Deputy Carver]: I believe I said prior to towing the vehicle.
"[Oram's Attorney]: Prior to towing, you searched incident to arrest; correct?
"[Deputy Carver]: also incident to arrest, yes."
. . . .
"[Oram's Attorney]: You didn't—in your testimony at preliminary hearing—hearing, you never said anything about doing an inventory search; correct?
"[Deputy Carver]: I don't remember what I said in that—in the prelim.
"[Oram's Attorney]: You would agree when you searched that car your initial motivation was to see if you could find contraband in the car; correct?
"[Deputy Carver]: It was mainly that and also for weapons." (Emphasis added.)
Later, the trial court held in its memorandum decision that the deputies had conducted a generalized search for evidence of a crime:
"The State contends this was an inventory search and, as such, another exception to the requirement of a warrant. While the vehicle was going to be towed at some point because of the arrest of both occupants, the deputies clearly conducted this search as a search incident to arrest under the old standard of New York v. Belton, 453 U.S. 454 (1981)."
When reviewing a motion to suppress, this court does not reweigh evidence, determine witness credibility, or resolve conflicts of evidence. State v. McMullen, 290
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Kan. 1, 4, 221 P.3d 92 (2009). Moreover, this court normally gives great deference to the factual finding of the trial court. State v. Vandiver, 257 Kan. 53, 58, 891 P.2d 350 (1995).
Based on the memorandum decision, it is readily apparent that the trial court made a credibility determination. The only testimony that was heard at the suppression hearing was that of the two deputies. Clearly, the trial court did not find Deputy Carver's testimony regarding the inventory search exception to be credible.


Did the court get the issue correct?
 
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Last Edit: 2011/12/06 10:10 By Burgers Allday.
 
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#78440
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Re:Vehicle inventory question 2 Years, 11 Months ago  
I guess I would like to see the form and policy. We have an inventory form. And our department policy is to inventory the vehicle, and write down the condition of the vehicle, damage etc, and anything of importance or value. We don't need to write down that they had 57 napkins in the glove box.
 
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#78445
415WMA (User)
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Re:Vehicle inventory question 2 Years, 11 Months ago  
I think the court got it right, but only because of the poor quality testimony from the deputies.

Inventory searches are still valid and as SPD said, we don't have to inventory every napkin. In my state we have a check-off and fill in the box inventory form along with space to write in items of significance and of unusual value, to protect the concerned law enforcement agency and tow operator from claims of theft or damage.

The problem here is the deputy's credibility as a witness. From the limited facts published, this probably would have passed muster as an inventory search. However, instead of calling it that, the deputy testified it was a search for evidence, for which I assume there was no PC. (Bad deputy - no donut.) At the same time, the prosecution was trying to save the matter, correctly calling it an inventory search but in doing so, contradicting the deputy. If both has simply called it an inventory search during which evidence or contraband was discovered it probably would have flown in the eyes of the court.

There is also another issue. The quote says "Because the State failed to establish the content of any standardized or established routine procedure for an inventory search promulgated by the Sheriff's Department.."

I don't remember the particular case law covering inventory searches, but I believe it requires that the law enforcement agency in question must have a policy in place requiring its officers to inventory every arrestee's vehicle that they tow. Because of that last quote I have to wonder if the deputy's employing agency in this case lacked such a policy. If so, that too, could be why the court tossed the matter.
 
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Last Edit: 2011/12/13 13:21 By 415WMA.
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