2013 Unpublished Opinion No. 667
Appeal from the District Court of the First Judicial District, State of Idaho, Kootenai County. Hon. John T. Mitchell, District Judge.
Judgment of conviction for possession of a controlled substance, affirmed.
Sara B. Thomas, State Appellate Public Defender; Shawn F. Wilkerson, Deputy Appellate Public Defender, Boise, for appellant.
Hon. Lawrence G. Wasden, Attorney General; Nicole L. Schafer, Deputy Attorney General, Boise, for respondent.
GUTIERREZ, Chief Judge
Steven Douglas McBride appeals from his judgment of conviction entered upon his conditional guilty plea to possession of a controlled substance. Specifically, he challenges the district court's denial of his motion to suppress. For the reasons set forth below, we affirm.
FACTS AND PROCEDURE
McBride was driving his mother's vehicle, with Melissa Watson in the passenger seat, when they were pulled over on an interstate onramp by Lieutenant Stuart Miller of the Kootenai County Sherriff's Department (Department), who was investigating a report that McBride and Watson had been engaged in a physical altercation. Upon contacting McBride, Lieutenant Miller came to believe McBride was potentially under the influence of a controlled substance. McBride was arrested and after a competent driver could not be quickly found to remove the vehicle from the onramp, Lieutenant Miller decided to impound the vehicle. An inventory search was performed, during which Lieutenant Miller found several syringes in a purse and in a zippered stuffed animal. Subsequently, Lieutenant Miller located drugs in the vehicle.
McBride was charged with possession of methamphetamine, driving under the influence, possession of marijuana, possession of drug paraphernalia, and a habitual offender enhancement. McBride filed a motion to suppress, asserting the warrantless search of the vehicle violated his constitutional rights. Following a hearing, the district court denied the motion in a written order. Pursuant to a plea agreement, McBride entered a conditional guilty plea to misdemeanor driving under the influence, Idaho Code § 18-8004, and felony possession of a controlled substance (methamphetamine), I.C. § 37-2732(c)(1), in exchange for dismissal of the remaining charges and retaining his right to appeal the denial of his motion to suppress. The district court entered a judgment of conviction for each charge and imposed sentence. McBride now appeals the denial of his motion to suppress.
McBride contends the district court erred by denying his motion to suppress because the impoundment (seizure) of his vehicle and the subsequent inventory search were unlawful. The standard of review of a suppression motion is bifurcated. When a decision on a motion to suppress is challenged, we accept the trial court's findings of fact that are supported by substantial evidence, but we freely review the application of constitutional principles to the facts as found. State v. Atkinson, 128 Idaho 559, 561, 916 P.2d 1284, 1286 (Ct. App. 1996). At a suppression hearing, the power to assess the credibility of witnesses, resolve factual conflicts, weigh evidence, and draw factual inferences is vested in the trial court. State v. Valdez-Molina, 127 Idaho 102, 106, 897 P.2d 993, 997 (1995); State v. Schevers, 132 Idaho 786, 789, 979 P.2d 659, 662 (Ct. App. 1999).
The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures. Warrantless searches are presumed to be unreasonable and therefore violative of the Fourth Amendment. State v. Weaver, 127 Idaho 288, 290, 900 P.2d 196, 198 (1995); State v. Stewart, 152 Idaho 868, 869, 276 P.3d 740, 741 (Ct. App. 2012). The State may overcome this presumption by demonstrating that a warrantless search either fell within a well-recognized exception to the warrant requirement or was otherwise reasonable under the circumstances. Weaver, 127 Idaho at 290, 900 P.2d at 198; Stewart, 152 Idaho at 869, 276 P.3d at 741. Ultimately, the standard set forth in the Fourth Amendment is reasonableness. Cady v. Dombrowski, 413 U.S. 433, 439 (1973); Stewart, 152 Idaho at 869-70, 276 P.3d at 741-42.
Inventory searches are a well-recognized exception to the warrant requirement of the Fourth Amendment. Colorado v. Bertine, 479 U.S. 367, 371 (1987); Illinois v. Lafayette, 462 U.S. 640, 643 (1983); Stewart, 152 Idaho at 870, 276 P.3d at 742; State v. Owen, 143 Idaho 274, 277, 141 P.3d 1143, 1146 (Ct. App. 2006). The legitimate purposes of inventory searches are: (1) the protection of the owner's property while it remains in police custody; (2) the protection of the State against false claims of lost or stolen property; and (3) the protection of police from potential danger. South Dakota v. Opperman, 428 U.S. 364, 369-70 (1976); Stewart, 152 Idaho at 870, 276 P.3d at 742. However, an inventory search must not be a ruse for general rummaging in order to locate incriminating evidence. Florida v. Wells, 495 U.S. 1, 4 (1990). Inventory searches, when conducted in compliance with standard and established police ...