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Is a Backpack Inventory by Police a Warrantless Search? Oregon v. Hite (2014)

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November 05, 2014: Court of Appeals: State of Oregon v. Jason Paul Hite (A150288 – Lane County Circuit Court)

HADLOCK, J.

“Defendant seeks reversal of a number of convictions related to identity theft 3 and forgery. Before trial, defendant moved to suppress evidence found in his backpack after he was arrested on an outstanding warrant, arguing that the police unlawfully searched the backpack. The trial court ruled that the police were required to inventory the contents of the backpack before taking defendant to jail, and it denied the motion to suppress. On appeal, defendant argues, among other things, that the search was unlawful because it was not conducted pursuant to a facially valid inventory policy that sufficiently limited the scope of the inventory. The state contends that the inventory policy is sufficiently limited and, alternatively, that the search was a constitutionally permissible search incident to defendant’s arrest. We agree with defendant that the inventory policy is unconstitutionally overbroad. We reject the state’s alternative argument because the state did not raise it in the trial court and, if it had, defendant might have been able to create a different record on the issue. Accordingly, we reverse as to the challenged convictions….” [Link to full case.]

(Oregon Constitution Article 1, Section 9)