Thursday, July 31, 2008

Contraband Inside a Teddy Bear

State v. Kruip, no. 07-1675 (Iowa Ct. App. July 30, 2008).
ISP Trooper Ward stopped Leiah Kruip, a Las Vegas, Nevada resident, in Cerro Gordo county for speeding in the rental car she was driving. Kruip offered that she was en route to Minneapolis with an overdue rental which sort of explained why she was speeding.
Trooper Ward obtained consent to search the vehicle and in the trunk he uncovered a large Teddy Bear and baby wipes. He asked Kruip what was inside the bear, and informed her that the bear might have to be cut open. She said that police could not. The bear had the appearance of being inartfully restitched together. Trooper ward cut the bear open and retrieved packages of marijuana. Kruip was subsequently charged with possession with intent to deliver and failure to affix a tax stamp.
Kruip moved to suppress evidence, arguing that continuing detention after the traffic summons was completed rendered her consent to search involuntary, she withdrew her consent to search before the trooper cut open the teddy bear, and that Ward did not have probable cause to forcefully squeeze the bear without a warrant. This motion was overruled.
The Court of Appeals affirmed, finding that the fact that the rental agreement had expired a month previously created a reasonable suspicion that she was operating the vehicle without the owner's consent, justifying Ward's taking the time to contact Avis and clarify the matter. The Court also found that her consent to search the vehicle was voluntarily given and not rescinded.
The Court agreed with the district court when it found that consent to search could not include cutting open personal possessions, and thus the search of the toy's innards had to come under another exception to the warrant requirement besides consent.
When Ward felt the bear, he detected a hard bricklike shape within it and knew that marijuana is sometimes packed that way. He asked another officer to confirm his observations, and noticed that the neck of the bear had been inartfully reattached. Because of the mobility of the vehicle and thus exigent circumstances, Ward had probable cause to make a small incision to determine whether the bear contained contraband.


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