Monday, November 23, 2009

United States v. Ruckes: Evidence Admissible Despite Illegal Vehicle Search

In United States v. Ruckes, the Ninth Circuit court of Appeals upheld the admissibility of drug and firearm evidence in a case where law enforcement conducted an illegal search of a vehicle under the doctrine of inevitable discovery. The Court followed the recent Supreme Court decision of Arizona v. Gant, which limits searches of automobiles, pursuant to the driver’s arrest, to situations where the driver is “unsecured and within reaching distance” of the interior of the car at the time of the search or where it is reasonable to expect evidence related to the crime underlying the arrest might be found in the vehicle. In Ruckes, the driver was arrested for driving without a license and secured in the back of a patrol vehicle. The Court found that since no evidence related to unlawful driving might be found in the car, and since Mr. Ruckes posed no danger of getting a weapon from the car at the time of the search, the search would otherwise be illegal under the Gant decision. However, the Court allowed evidence of cocaine base and possession of a gun to be used against Ruckes under the doctrine of inevitable discovery, a recognized exception to the Fourth Amendment’s warrant requirement. The Court held, "because the district court did not err in alternatively holding that the drugs and firearm would have been uncovered during a routine inventory search of the vehicle upon impound, we affirm its denial of the motion to suppress under the doctrine of inevitable discovery.” Id. at *1. United States v. Ruckes can be found at __F.3d __, No. 08-30088 , 2009 WL 3719209 (9th Cir. Nov. 9, 2009)