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State v. Finlay

Summarized by: 

Date Filed: 07-17-2013
Case #: A149582
Sercombe, J. for the Court; Ortega, P.J.; and Haselton, C.J.
Full Text Opinion: http://www.publications.ojd.state.or.us/docs/A149582.pdf

Criminal Procedure: (1) Under State v. Meharry, Defendant is not required to be driving the vehicle in order for the police to "encounter" the vehicle during a warrantless search. (2) An attached trailer qualifies as a "vehicle" for the purposes of the automobile exception to the warrant requirement. (3) Under Meharry, the automobile exception to the warrant requirement permits a warrantless search of a vehicle when the police have probable cause or the vehicle is mobile at the time of the encounter.

The State appealed the trial court's order granting a motion to suppress. Police observed Defendant selling methamphetamine to an informant on two separate occasions, April 13, 2011, and April 22, 2011. Both times, Defendant was driving a white truck with an attached trailer. On April 22, 2011, police stopped and performed a warrantless search of Defendant, his truck, and the attached trailer, in which the police recovered methamphetamine. Defendant was charged with one count of delivery of methamphetamine under ORS 475.890. Defendant argued, and the trial court held, that (1) the police did not "encounter" the defendant's truck and trailer, (2) the trailer did not qualify as a “vehicle” under the automobile exception to the warrant requirement, and (3) the officers lacked probable cause to perform the search. The Court of Appeals held that under State v. Meharry, 342 Or App 173 (2006), Defendant did not need to be driving the car when the police stopped Defendant during the commission of a crime, in order to fall within the Brown automobile exception to a warrant requirement. Further, the Court held if the vehicle is operable, it is considered "mobile," qualifying it for exception to the warrant requirement. Here, Defendant was seen driving the vehicle, including the attached trailer, when Defendant was stopped, therefore qualifying it as operable and "mobile" under Meharry. Additionally, the Court held that there are two situations where the warrantless automobile search is permitted: when the officer has probable cause to search the vehicle or the vehicle is mobile at the time the police encounter it in connection with a crime. The Court held that the police searched Defendant's truck and trailer in connection with a crime, thus, probable cause was not required. Reversed and remanded.