Fourth Amendment Inventory Search Exception Leads Arizona Court to Deny Motion to Suppress

In a recent opinion written by an Arizona appellate court, a defendant appealed a lower court’s denial of his to suppress the physical evidence found in his backpack after a murder. The appellate court affirmed the denial of his motion to suppress, finding that the defendant’s Fourth Amendment protections were not violated since the backpack search was a routine inventory search and that the evidence would have been inevitably found because of a warrant filed by police.

The Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, the defendant was found with a bloody knife, a store receipt, and a cell phone, which linked him to the murder of a store worker who was attacked in the store’s parking lot after refusing to hand over his car keys. The defendant argued that he acted out of self-defense at a bus station, but the DNA on the bloody knife and on the defendant’s clothes belonged to the store worker and no disturbance was reported at a bus station that night. Surveillance video showed the defendant getting out of the stolen vehicle to enter a store about an hour after the store worker was killed.

The defendant filed a motion to suppress the evidence found in his backpack and argued that the search violated his Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches and seizures. The defendant reasoned that the backpack search was not a valid search incident to arrest since it occurred six hours after his arrest and that there were no other emergency circumstances justifying a warrantless search at that time. The trial court denied the defendant’s motion to suppress and the defendant appealed.

The Court’s Opinion

The trial court denied the motion to suppress for a few reasons. First, the lower court found that the searches conducted at the police station were routine inventory procedures related to booking and jailing a suspect. It also found that any items found inside the backpack would have been inevitably discovered because of the warrant police obtained at 10am after the defendant’s arrest. In this opinion, the appellate court explained that even evidence that has been illegally obtained by police can be admitted if the state demonstrates that the evidence would have inevitably been found due to lawful procedures. Here, the police officers lawfully seized and searched the defendant’s backpack incident to his arrest by placing all of the items into unsealed evidence bags before searching. Additionally, the police obtained a warrant authorizing the search of the defendant. Thus, because of routine inventory search and the warrant that would have inevitably led to the discovery of the incriminating evidence, the appellate court found that the trial court correctly denied the defendant’s motion to suppress.

Have You Been Charged with a Serious Crime in Arizona?

If you have been charged with a crime in Arizona, the Law Office of James E. Novak is ready to help you with your case. Attorney Novak is a skilled criminal defense attorney who has hands-on experience in handling matters involving serious crimes, including Arizona felony offenses, weapons charges, and drug charges. To schedule a free consultation and to discuss your rights and remedies, contact the Law Office of James E. Novak at 480-413-4199.

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