Law School Case Brief
People v. Gipson - 203 Ill. 2d 298, 272 Ill. Dec. 1, 786 N.E.2d 540 (2003)
An inventory search of a lawfully impounded vehicle is a judicially created exception to the warrant requirement of the Fourth Amendment. Three objectives are served by allowing inventory searches: (1) protection of the owner's property, (2) protection of the police against claims of lost or stolen property, and (3) protection of the police from potential danger.
Defendant's vehicle was stopped by a police officer after defendant was found to be driving on a revoked license. The officer conducted an inventory search pursuant to police policy. The officer opened the trunk and found a yellow plastic bag tied closed. The officer opened that bag and found a black plastic bag. The officer opened it and found crack cocaine. At a suppression hearing, the officer testified that when a vehicle was towed, a tow inventory search was conducted. He added that the inventory search policy was contained in a 600-page police policy manual stating an officer was to check areas where valuables were kept. The appellate court affirmed the trial court's decision to grant the motion to suppress. It reasoned the written policy should have been introduced and the officer's testimony was deficient because nothing in the policy authorized the opening of closed containers during inventory searches.
Was the evidence obtained pursuant to the inventory search conducted by the police officer inadmissible?
The state supreme court found that defendant did not show the search was illegal, the State was not required to introduce the written policy, and the directive to search for valuables authorized the opening of closed containers. According to the court, there was no requirement that police procedures be in writing. The United States Supreme Court required only that, in conducting inventory searches, the police act in accordance with standardized department procedures.
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