Monday, February 08, 2010

Court Declines to Find Exception to Auto Exception

US v. Kelly: Kelly was the subject of an investigation into drug dealing in the Hampton Roads, Virginia, area. Officers obtained a warrant to search Kelly's home, although not any vehicles that were there. When police executed the search warrant, a green Lexus that was known to be Kelly's was one of three vehicles outside the house. When Kelly was told that a drug dog was on its way, he acknowledge that there were drugs in one or more of the vehicles, but did not specify which ones. The drug dog alerted at the Lexus's driver's door, but a search of the passenger compartment revealed nothing. Officers then searched the trunk, in which they found cocaine and ecstasy. Kelly sought to suppress that evidence, but the district court concluded that there was probable cause to believe there were drugs in the Lexus, including in the trunk, and that no warrant was required under the automobile exception. Kelly was convicted by a jury of conspiracy and substantive drug charges.

On appeal, Kelly advanced three arguments to overturn his convictions, all of which the Fourth Circuit rejected. First, the court concluded that the district court properly denied Kelly's motion to suppress. The automobile exception to the warrant requirement applied, even though the Lexus was under police control and there was no danger of evidence being removed from it prior to a search. Furthermore, there was probable cause to search the entirety of the car. Second, the court rejected Kelly's arguments that the prosecutor had engaged in misconduct by referring to two earlier arrests during trial but offering evidence only relating to one of them and, thus, coerced Kelly to testify on his own behalf. Finally, the court affirmed that the evidence was sufficient to sustain Kelly's convictions.

No comments: