Recent Ingram decision instructs police to give arrestees “park and lock” option
Prohibits police from searching containers pursuant to so-called “inventory” searches
June 29, 2018—The Iowa Supreme Court in State v. Bion Blake Ingram, reversed and remanded a Jasper County District Court Decision denying a motion to suppress a pipe and methamphetamine that Newton Police found in a motorist’s car, seized incidentally to a traffic stop after Jasper County Sheriffs Office deputy found the driver had improperly affixed a registration sticker to an expired license plate.
Justice Appel, writing for the Court, held that Article I § 8 of the Iowa Constitution— which closely parallels the U.S. Constitution’s Fourth Amendment prohibiting unreasonable, warrantless searches— provides more protection to motorists in the State of Iowa.
The decision exhaustively explored the history of the inventory exception—what Justice Appel described as a “highly contested issue.” Justice Appel wrote that the generalized policy considerations advanced by law enforcement—like preventing false accusations against the police for stealing valuable items in impounded cars and safeguarding the property from actual theft—do not overcome the warrant requirement. Nor are they really fulfilled by a policy of warrantless searches.
Justice Appel in the opinion examined Indiana, Texas, and New Jersey decisions that diverge from the U.S. Supreme Court’s Bertine decision. In Bertine the U.S. Supreme Court rejected a case by case analysis of the facts in each search—instead opting to validate all inventory searches on the basis of generalized policy considerations.
In Indiana, noted Justice Appel, courts “liberally construe” the state constitution to afford motorists more protection than the Fourth Amendment. Similarly, Texas courts depart from the Fourth Amendment by barring police from seizing parked cars in a private lot.
The majority opinion requires that police give a “park and lock” option to an arrestee and further allow motorists to retrieve valuables. Where that’s not possible, the opinion instructs police not to search containers and to tell motorists they will not be searched—instead, police may only inventory containers “as a unit” without opening them and only where the vehicle is validly impounded.
Justice Cady concurred specially noting that three exceptions to the warrant requirement already apply to the situations police advance as the purpose of the inventory search. Justice Cady suggested that police advance plain view, automobile exception (probable cause to believe contraband is present), and consent, if validly given.
Justice Mansfield concurred specially, along with Justice Zager, writing that the Fourth Amendment requires the police to establish an inventory search policy to justify an inventory search and that he would have remanded with instructions to grant the motion to suppress simply because the State did a poor job of establishing said policy.
For example, wrote Justice Mansfield, a deputy testified during the suppression hearing that a policy within the Jasper County Sheriffs Office exists to conduct inventory searches but did not produce it. Moreover, a Newton Police Officer conducted the inventory search not the JCSO and there was no evidence of a Newton Police Department inventory policy in the record. Thus, Justices Mansfield and Zager would not have established a more stringent "park and lock" option under the Iowa Constitution but would have reversed and remanded because of the State’s failure to meet the federal standard.
While Justice Appel predicted that the new “park and lock” and no-container search instructions from the Supreme Court would inspire “stability and finality of law,” Justice Mansfield had a more dire prediction, suggesting that it would do the opposite thus raising more questions than it answered.
If you or a loved one have been arrested for OWI or another criminal offense in Cedar Rapids, Iowa City, or other Iowa community, contact David A. Cmelik Law PLC for a free initial consultation.