Thursday, December 28, 2006

Potheads Behaving Badly, Part 2: Automobile Exception Expanded?

State v. Campbell, No. 05-1988 (Iowa Ct. App. Dec. 28, 2006).

In State v. Campbell, a Cedar Rapids officer saw the defendant pacing back and forth beside a van. When he inquired, the defendant was sitting in the van in the passenger 's seat with his feet outside the van. The officer smelled an odor of burnt marijuana, and the defendant stated he'd been smoking marijuana but was waiting for a ride home as he did not want to drive because of his inebriation.

A pat down search was conducted, and the defendant removed a marijuana pipe from his pocket and admitted he had marijuana on his person. The defendant's story differed, and he alleged that the search went far beyond what was permissible, and he moved to suppress evidence.

The District Court found that the defendant had not consented to the search as the state alleged, and that there was an insufficient basis for a Terry pat downbut denied the motion to suppress based on 'the automobile exception' and convicted the defendant. This appeal followed.

The defendant argued on appeal that the automobile exception applies to searches of automobiles and not people. The Court of Appeals disagreed, holding that the 'automobile exception' applied to a subset of searches based on probable cause and exigent circumstances.

Based on the observations of the officer, the defendant was intoxicated and possessed illegal drugs. Given the late hour, the access to the van and the likelihood that the defendant's ride home would arrive, along with the ready ability to discard the evidence, the Court of Appeals upheld the trial court's ruling on the defendant's motion to suppress.

The holding of the Court of Appeals seems to say that the courts will look to the totality of the circumstances in such a situation rather than the miscued phraseology of a district court judge.


Post a Comment

<< Home