State v. Hockersmith

Summarized by:

  • Court: Oregon Court of Appeals
  • Area(s) of Law: Criminal Procedure
  • Date Filed: 08-06-2014
  • Case #: A151001
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Tookey, J. for the Court; Sercombe, P.J.; and Hadlock, J.
  • Full Text Opinion

Under Article I, section 9 of the Oregon Constitution, a warrantless inventory search of a vehicle incident to a lawful impounding is not permitted, unless the search is conducted pursuant to a properly authorized administrative program.

Defendant appealed his convictions of attempting to elude a police officer and criminal driving while suspended or revoked. A police officer stopped Defendant while driving, and Defendant ran from the scene and could not be located. The officers did not know the identity of Defendant until they located his identification inside his wallet, which they found in the pocket of a pair of shorts while searching the vehicle incident to impounding it. Defendant appealed the trial court’s denial of his motion to suppress that evidence of his identity, arguing that the officer exceeded the scope of the Josephine County Sheriff Department’s inventory policy. The policy allowed for the search of “[ ] any container that based upon its context or physical appearance would reasonably be expected to contain valuables.” Defendant argued that the warrantless search of the shorts failed to comply with this policy, and thus violates the requirements for a warrantless search under Article I, section 9 of the Oregon Constitution. The State argued that the pockets of men’s shorts should be considered “designed to hold valuables.” The Court reasoned that a vehicle inventory search must be pursuant to a policy that involves no exercise of discretion by the officer conducting the search, and that the State bears this burden of proof. The Court held that the State failed to meet its burden of proof, because the inventory policy specifically required a determination of whether an item would be reasonably expected to contain valuables, and the State failed to present evidence about the context or appearance of the shorts from which it could be concluded that the inventory policy was properly applied. Reversed and remanded.

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