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State v. Rowell

Summarized by: 

Date Filed: 08-01-2012
Case #: A143095
Schuman, P.J. for the Court; Willheim, J.; and Nakamoto, J.
Full Text Opinion: http://www.publications.ojd.state.or.us/Publications/A143095.pdf

Criminal Procedure: When an inventory search deviates from the established policy or procedures of a particular law enforcement agency, the inventory search will be deemed invalid, and the evidence will be suppressed.

Defendant appealed his convictions for several charges, including Identity Theft, Computer Crime and Forgery. These convictions stemmed from evidence found on Defendant’s computer after a car in which he was a passenger was stopped and inventoried. Police officers found a laptop bag in the trunk, which contained a stolen computer. Defendant denied that it belonged to him, and when the officers searched the bag to “ascertain ownership,” they found a stack of checks belonging to Defendant. Among other motions at trial, Defendant moved to suppress the laptop bag and its contents based on the unlawful search. The trial court denied the motion, and Defendant appealed. The Court of Appeals held that the search of the laptop bag was unlawful because the police officers “deviated from the established policy or procedures of the particular law enforcement agency.” The Portland Police Code specifically states that “closed containers located either within the vehicle or its compartments will not be opened for inventory purposes.” Because the officers deviated from that policy, the search is invalid. Reversed and remanded.