Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Search of Defendant at Police Station Supported By Evidence

State v. Gary, 05-0597 (Iowa Ct. App. May 24, 2006)

An informant told police that Gary was in a vehicle in possession of cocaine. The vehicle was spotted and when it was learned that Gary's license was suspended and it was Gary's vehicle a stop was initiated. It was then discovered that Gary was a passenger.

When an officer approached the vehicle he smelled the odor of marijuana on Gary's person. A drug dog was called to the scene and hit on the area where Gary was seated. Despite no contraband being uncovered, police escorted Gary to the station where he was searched and cocaine was found in his socks.

Gary moved to suppress, arguing that the vehicle stop was without justification because he was not driving. The court held that because the officer reasonably believed that an unlicensed driver was at the wheel the stop was reasonable. This belief was based on knowledge that the vehicle belonged to Gary, his license was suspended, and an individual matching Gary's description was driving.

Gary next moved to suppress the search of the vehicle. The court held that the smell of marijuana along with the exigency due to the vehicle's mobility justified the search of the vehicle.

Last, Gary moved to suppress the search of his person at the station. The court held that where a defendant is under arrest (as the defendant in this case conceded although it is not clear whether he was formally arrested) the search of his person was lawful. If there is probable cause to arrest a person, then the search of that person is lawful, according to the court.


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