State v. Gonzales

Summarized by:

  • Court: Oregon Court of Appeals
  • Area(s) of Law: Criminal Procedure
  • Date Filed: 10-01-2014
  • Case #: A150682
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Ortega, P.J. for the Court; DeMuniz, S.J., and DeVore, J.
  • Full Text Opinion

A police officer cannot rely on the "good-faith exception" to the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution to impound a car that does not impede traffic or pose a threat to safety when that police officer should have been on notice that the "community-caretaker exception" does not apply.

For the second time, Defendant appealed a motion to suppress evidence granted by the trial court. In this appeal, Defendant alleges that the impoundment of his motor vehicle, resulting in the discovery of a controlled substance, was unconstitutional. Defendant argues that because he parked in his own driveway, the vehicle did not impede traffic or pose a threat to public safety, thereby prohibiting impoundment under the “community-caretaker exception.” On appeal, the state argues that the police officer was relying on the “good-faith exception.” Recently, the Ninth Circuit held that it was unconstitutional to rely on the “community-caretaker exception” in very similar circumstances involving the same police department relying on ORS 809.720 or the applicable Cornelius city code. The Court found it objectively unreasonable for the officer to rely on the same law to perform an impoundment in substantially similar circumstances such as those in this case, as the officer should have known the extent of the law. The Court agreed with Defendant, holding that the “good-faith exception” did not apply, as the officer should have known the impoundment was unconstitutional when the vehicle as parked did not pose a threat to public safety or impediment to traffic. Reversed.

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