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United States v. Osborne

June 13, 2007

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, PLAINTIFF,
v.
LAWRENCE OSBORNE, JR., DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Michael M. Mihm United States District Judge

ORDER

Before the Court is Defendant Lawrence Osborne, Jr.'s Motion to Suppress Evidence [# 9]. For the reasons set forth below, Osborne's Motion to Suppress Evidence is GRANTED.

BACKGROUND

Defendant Lawrence Osborne ("Osborne") has filed a Motion to suppress evidence seized by the East Peoria Police Department in connection with the impoundment and inventory search of his motor vehicle. The facts surrounding this matter are not in dispute. On July 25, 2006, East Peoria police officer Martin was called to Tony and Sons Autobody Shop ("Shop"). The Shop also tows vehicles for the city of East Peoria. Upon officer Martin's arrival at the Shop, the service manager informed him that Osborne had just brought in a vehicle to be worked on. The service manager said that he recognized Osborne because Osborne had brought in a car on a previous occasion. The manager explained to officer Martin that the Shop had performed a substantial amount of work on the first car Osborne had brought in, totaling $4,000, but when the Shop had completed the repairs, Osborne did not have the money to pay. Osborne then made several phone calls and finally provided the Shop with a credit card number. The Shop accepted the credit card information, released the car to Osborne and later discovered that the credit card information was fraudulent.

Armed with that information, officer Martin approached Osborne and related the facts that the service manager had disclosed. Osborne provided the explanation that a cousin or other relative had given him the credit card information. Officer Martin then asked Osborne to accompany him to the East Peoria police station to continue their conversation, and Osborne agreed. At this point Osborne was not under arrest.

When Osborne left for the police station, the car was inside the Shop in a work bay. There had been no discussion between the officer and Osborne as to what Osborne wanted to do with the car. Also, there had been no discussion between the officer and the service manager or anyone else at the Shop regarding the car.

At the police station, Osborne was interviewed by Detective Swearingen. Osborne gave various explanations regarding the fraudulent credit card which were subsequently checked and found not to be truthful. At this point, Osborne was placed under arrest and advised of his Miranda rights, which he waived.

Detective Swearingen advised Police Sargent Kamm that Osborne had been placed under arrest and requested that Kamm inventory the car at the Shop. If the car had not already been at the Shop it would have been towed, but the tow was unnecessary because the Shop provides towing services for the city of East Peoria. Sargent Kamm and officer Martin conducted an inventory search of the car at the Shop. The car remained in the bay during and after the search.

Osborne was indicted on February 22, 2007, for fraud with identification documents and for trafficking in counterfeit unauthorized access devices. On April 26, 2007, Osborne filed a Motion to Suppress any evidence that was seized as a result of the inventory search conducted by the East Peoria police officers. The Court held a hearing on Osborne's Motion to Suppress Evidence on June 6, 2007, and this Order follows.

DISCUSSION

Osborne requests that this Court suppress any evidence obtained from the search of the vehicle on the grounds that the police officers violated his Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure when they conducted a warrantless search of the vehicle without probable cause. Osborne argues that the officers lacked a substantive basis for the inventory search because Osborne was not in custody or under arrest at the time he left the vehicle at the Shop and because the officers were not in possession of any facts that would provide them probable cause to justify a warrantless search of the vehicle. Osborne further asserts that when he left the vehicle with the Shop, a bailment relationship existed, and neither he nor the Shop sought to end that relationship.

In response, the Government argues that the search of the vehicle constituted a valid inventory search because the police officers were acting in accordance with the East Peoria Police Department's written policy governing inventory searches incident to arrest. The Government asserts that since such a standard policy exists and since the officers acted in good faith pursuant to that policy, which authorizes police discretion in determining when to conduct an inventory search, the search was reasonable and therefore valid.

The Court must determine whether the search of Osborne's vehicle by the police officers constitutes a valid inventory search. In a Fourth Amendment claim, the decision of whether a search or seizure is reasonable is intensely fact driven and should be determined based on the totality of the circumstances. See, South Dakota v. Opperman, 428 U.S. 364, 373 (1976); U.S. v. Griffin, 729 F.2d 475, 485 (7th Cir. 1984). If a search or seizure is found to be in violation of the Fourth Amendment, the evidence obtained from the illegal search or seizure may be properly suppressed via the exclusionary rule. See Arizona v. Evans, 514 U.S. 1, 11 (1995); U.S. v. ...


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