The Iowa Supreme Court has ruled in a case that could make it easier for police to search cars for drugs. The ruling involves a case where a Polk County sheriff’s deputy stopped a vehicle for speeding on a Des Moines street.
The driver of the car, Allen Allensworth rolled down the window and told the deputy there was an outstanding warrant for his arrest. The deputy noticed Allensworth had a large snake draped around his neck and decided to have the car towed away so the animal could be taken care of.
Before the deputy could do a routine inventory on the contents of the car, he got an anonymous call that there were possibly drugs in the car. The search of the car yielded a bag of marijuana in the console, and the deputy decided to search the steering column where he also found a bag containing approximately twenty-five grams of methamphetamine.
Allensworth sought to have the bag of marijuana and methamphetamine thrown out on the grounds the deputy had no probably cause for the search. A district court ruled the marijuana could be used as evidence, but threw out the methamphetamine as evidence. The State appealed the lower court ruling. The Iowa Supreme Court overturned the ruling saying that the search of the steering column of Allensworth’s vehicle was based on probable cause that arose during a lawful inventory search. So, a warrantless search of the vehicle’s steering column was therefore reasonable under the Fourth Amendment.
The High Court sent the issue back to the district court with the methamphetamine found in the steering column now accepted as evidence for further court proceedings.