State v. Wiggins

Summarized by:

  • Court: Oregon Court of Appeals
  • Area(s) of Law: Criminal Procedure
  • Date Filed: 08-17-2011
  • Case #: A141607
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Sercombe, P.J. for the Court; Brewer, C.J.; & Landau, J.
  • Full Text Opinion

The ‘automobile exception’ to the warrant requirement of Article I, section 9, of the Oregon Constitution applies as long as the vehicle in question is functionally mobile, even if law enforcement officers have broken contact with the vehicle.

Police officers were contacted when a neighbor overheard a verbal altercation where Defendant said he was going to get a gun. The Officers located defendant driving in his car and pulled him over for a traffic violation. The Officers asked defendant for permission to search his vehicle, which he declined on two occasions. Defendant was then arrested for a parole violation and taken to jail. The Officers left the vehicle unattended for approximately 25 minutes while they requested a search warrant and spoke to defendant’s girlfriend. When the girlfriend wanted to drive the car away, the Officers conducted a warrantless search of the vehicle where they found a firearm. Defendant argued that the search was unconstitutional; the automobile exception did not apply because the Officers broke contact with the vehicle and it was no longer ‘mobile.’ The Court ruled that the vehicle was nevertheless mobile even though the Officers broke contact with it and the vehicle was still operational, so the automobile exception applied. Reversed and remanded.

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