One New Advance Opinion (5-9-24)

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2 months 1 week ago #248 by Joseph Allan Tommasino
Gilbert (Jesse) v. State,



 140 Nev. Adv. Op. No. 33



May 9, 2024



nvcourts.gov/supreme/decisions/advance_opinions



 



Appeal from a judgment of conviction, pursuant to a no-contest plea, of ex-felon in possession of a firearm. Tenth Judicial District Court, Churchill County; Thomas L. Stockard, Judge. 



Affirmed.



 BEFORE THE SUPREME COURT, CADISH, C.J., and PICKERING and BELL, JJ.



 



By the Court, CADISH, C.J.: 



Issue: 



“The inventory search is a well-established exception to the warrant requirement of the Fourth Amendment. Generally, if an inventory search complies with standardized procedures, it is reasonable and therefore constitutional.



We have previously recognized that even when an inventory search does not comply with standardized procedures, it may still be constitutional if it is reasonable under the totality of the circumstances.



We are called on today to address how courts should conduct this reasonableness analysis.”



Brief Answer:



“First, we clarify that while an inventory search cannot be a ruse for general rummaging, an investigatory motive does not necessarily invalidate an inventory search so long as the search that occurred is the same as the inventory-based search that would have happened absent any such motivation and the circumstances leading to the search were not created as a ruse to establish a basis for that search.



Instead, a court deciding a suppression motion must determine the search's reasonableness under the totality of the circumstances by evaluating (1) the extent to which law enforcement departed from the standardized procedures, (2) whether the scope of the search was as expected in light of the underlying justifications for inventory searches, and(3) whether the inventory produced served the purposes of an inventory search.



Here, a law enforcement deputy pulled over appellant Jesse Calvin Gilbert because the car Gilbert was driving did not have an operating license plate light. As Gilbert had an active warrant, the deputy arrested him. During the subsequent warrantless search of the vehicle, the deputy made several statements that indicated the deputy hoped to locate incriminating evidence in the vehicle. While searching, the deputy found a handgun under the driver's seat. Gilbert was charged with ex-felon in possession of a firearm and moved to suppress the evidence on the basis that the search was not a true inventory search, but rather a ruse to conduct an investigatory search. Finding that the deputy appropriately impounded the vehicle and the inventory search was reasonable, the district court denied the motion. Gilbert appeals from his subsequent conviction based on the search and resulting unsuppressed evidence.



Perceiving no error in the district court's decision denying the motion to suppress, we affirm. The investigatory motive here does not invalidate the inventory search because the search that occurred was precisely the same as the search that would have occurred absent the impure motivation. Because the deputy properly stopped Gilbert for the nonfunctioning license plate light and arrested Gilbert on the outstanding warrant, the deputy was required under police policy to tow the car Gilbert was driving. Therefore, the search that uncovered the gun would have occurred pursuant to the inventory search policy even absent the deputy's investigatory motives. Additionally, we conclude that while the inventory search here did not comply with standardized policies, it passes constitutional muster because it was reasonable under the totality of the circumstances, as the district court concluded.”
Joe T.

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