Tuesday, November 10, 2009

U.S. v. Ruckes, No. 08- 30088 (11-9-09). This is a Fourth Amendment "fall out" from Gant, and the new test for searches of cars. Police stopped defendant here for driving 15 miles over the speed limit. A records check indicated that he was also driving on a suspended license. As a result, the police arrested the defendant and placed him in the police car. The police then asked him if anyone could take possession of the car and drive it away. If not, the car could be impounded under state law. The defendant said he could turn the car over to his mother, but she was unavailable at this time and could not drive it away from the scene. The police then searched the vehicle as a search incident to arrest and as an inventory search. They found crack and a pistol. The 9th (Tallman joined by M. Smith and Reavley) found that Gant prohibited the search. The arrest was for a suspended license, and the defendant, at the time of the search, was locked away in the back of a police car. However, under the doctrine of inevitable discovery, the 9th held that an inventory search would have revealed the weapon and drugs. The 9th does strongly caution that the inventory/inevitable discover approach is not an exception that swallows the Gant rule. Rather, the police must be careful to satisfy the requirements of an inventory search -- that is, the car in fact would have been impounded -- and that there is legal justification, and that an inventory search would have taken place. This is a case by case, car by car, approach.


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