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State v. Tirado

Court of Appeals of Utah

June 28, 2018

State of Utah, Appellee,
Isaac Alberto Tirado, Appellant.

          Second District Court, Farmington Department The Honorable Thomas L. Kay No. 131702061

          Randall W. Richards, Attorney for Appellant

          Sean D. Reyes and Lindsey L. Wheeler, Attorneys for Appellee

          Judge Ryan M. Harris authored this Opinion, in which Judges Gregory K. Orme and David N. Mortensen concurred.

          HARRIS, Judge.

         ¶1 Defendant Isaac Alberto Tirado was a passenger in a car that was pulled over and eventually impounded. While conducting an inventory search of the impounded vehicle, officers found four types of illegal drugs near the passenger seat: methamphetamine, heroin, marijuana, and unprescribed oxycodone. After being charged with various drug-related offenses, Defendant moved to suppress the evidence discovered during the inventory search. The district court denied that motion, and Defendant appeals. We affirm.


         ¶2 While on patrol one afternoon, a Layton City police officer (Officer) noticed a car with an expired registration. Officer pulled over the vehicle, which had two occupants: a driver (Driver) and Defendant, who was sitting in the front passenger seat.[1] Officer approached the vehicle and asked Driver for his license and registration, but Driver was unable to produce a current registration. Officer also asked Defendant for identification, but Defendant did not have any and instead simply gave Officer his name. Officer then returned to his patrol car to run a records check on the information he was given.

         ¶3 After checking Driver's information, Officer learned that the vehicle had been unregistered for nearly a year, and that Driver had an outstanding "traffic warrant" for expired registration. After receiving that information, Officer noted that, due to its expired registration, he could "technically" impound the vehicle, but Officer did not at that point decide whether he would actually do so. Officer then ran a records check on Defendant, and obtained information that led him to believe that Defendant was a "gang member and drug abuser." At that point, Officer determined that he would in fact impound the vehicle, but decided not to arrest Driver on the outstanding warrant; instead, Officer gave Driver a citation for expired registration.

         ¶4 The Layton City Police Department has a written policy (the Policy) that governs the manner in which its officers are to inventory the contents of the vehicles they impound. In relevant part, the Policy provides as follows:

All property in a stored or impounded vehicle shall be inventoried and listed on the Vehicle Impound Report Form. This includes the trunk and any compartments or containers, even if closed and/or locked. Members conducting inventory searches should be as thorough and accurate as practical in preparing an itemized inventory. These inventory procedures are for the purpose of protecting an owner's property while in police custody, to provide for the safety of officers, and to protect the Department against fraudulent claims of lost, stolen or damaged property.
Unless it would cause an unreasonable delay in the completion of a vehicle impound/storage or create an issue of officer safety, officers should make reasonable accommodations to permit a driver/owner to retrieve small items of value or personal need (e.g., cash, jewelry, cell phone, prescriptions) which are not considered evidence or contraband.

         Officer later testified that it is "common practice" among Layton City officers to simply photograph the contents of the vehicle rather than to meticulously list each item on a written form.

         ¶5 After deciding to impound the vehicle, Officer asked both Driver and Defendant to exit the car, and explained his intention to tow the vehicle. By this time, a backup officer (Backup Officer) had arrived to assist. Officer told both Driver and Defendant that they were free to go and that they could call someone to pick them up. Driver and Defendant did not immediately leave the scene, and Officer asked them if they wanted any items from the car before it was impounded. Defendant asked for a backpack. Before giving the backpack to Defendant, however, Officer searched it and found a computer, an iPad, and a cell phone inside; Officer then ran the serial numbers of the items to determine if any were stolen, and ...

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