The Iowa Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a case involving the use of a warrantless search by law enforcement.
Bion Ingram was charged in 2015 and later convicted of possession of methamphetamine,. He says the car was seized was unconstitutionally and the drugs discovered because the Jasper County Sherriff’s Department lacked a standardized procedure for determining when impounding a vehicle is appropriate.
The prosecution argues the car lacked proper registration and wasn’t owned by Ingram, so there was no way the sheriff’s deputy could let him drive away. Justice David Wiggins didn’t seem convinced.
“Isn’t that saying just because the officer did it that means it’s a policy? And then it’s a good policy because you don’t want a car on the road without registration? That’s a circular argument. I mean there’s either a written policy or there’s not written policy,” Wiggens says. The deputy did an inventory of the car so it could be towed and found a black, drawstring bag that contained the methamphetamine. During this type of warrantless search, containers can’t be opened, so Ingram argues the contents of the bag shouldn’t have been revealed. But Justice Bruce Zager isn’t sure.
“I’m still struggling with the idea that a little pouch that you find on the floor board of the car really meets that definition of container,” Zager says. Justices will likely issue a ruling on the case by the end of this year.
Thanks to Sarah Boden, Iowa Public Radio