Friday, July 6, 2018

Iowa takes exception to shrinking 4th Amendment

Take that, SCOTUS!

And with the stroke of a pen (or, more accurately, the tapping of a few keys), the Iowa Supreme Court decided it wasn't playing games with the search and seizure clause of the state's constitution. As Justice Appell put it:

In the words of another state supreme court, we do not allow the words of our Iowa Constitution to be “balloons to be blown up or deflated every time, and precisely in accord with the interpretation of the U.S. Supreme Court, following some tortious trail.”

The question at hand was whether a so-called "inventory" search was a valid exception to the 4th Amendment's prohibition of unreasonable search and seizure. Art. 1, Sec. 8 of the Iowa Constitution contains the same wording as the 4th Amendment.

Bion Ingram was driving to work one morning when he was pulled over for a defective license plate lamp (one of those little lovelies that a motorist can never disprove). The officer then determined that the registration affixed to Mr. Ingram's car didn't quite match the car itself. The officer told Mr. Ingram he was going to have to impound the car but he offered to give him a ride to the nearest gas station so a friend could take him to work.

Then the officer asked if Mr. Ingram has anything of value in the car. He said no. The police then told him they were going to do an inventory search of the car before they towed it. And wouldn't you know it, they found a bag with a glass pipe and a gram of meth. Mr. Ingram was arrested. He challenged the search on the grounds there was no probable cause to search and that there was no warrant.

The trial court said who cares? He was convicted of possession of a controlled substance and filed an appeal.

The court decided that it wasn't going to allow the whims of the US Supreme Court to determine just what an unreasonable search was in Iowa. In its ruling the court held that the Supreme Court's determination of what was reasonable under the 4th Amendment wasn't the law of the land -- just the minimum guaranteed right.

The opinion offers a fairly comprehensive history of automobile exceptions to the 4th Amendment.

The opinion also offers advise to trial attorneys -- when making an objection based on federal constitutional law, make damn sure you make the same objection on state constitutional (or statutory) grounds when available. Failing to do so could open you up for a claim of ineffective assistance.

h/t Owen Barcala

No comments: