August 14, 2018

Colorado Court of Appeals: Person Whose Property was Unlawfully Seized by Law Enforcement Has Standing to Bring Claim for Return of Property

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Boudette v. State of Colorado on Thursday, July 26, 2018.

Crim. P. 41(e)StandingMotion for Return of Property.

Boudette was a caretaker of a farm during the owner’s absence. An officer of the Southwest Drug Task Force obtained a search warrant from the Montezuma District Court. The officer signed an affidavit that accompanied the warrant. The affidavit stated that law enforcement believed the owner and his son used the farm as an illegal marijuana growing operation. The warrant described the items to be seized.

While the owner was away, law enforcement executed the warrant and allegedly seized property owned by Boudette, including a cellphone; a computer; notebooks; antique muskets; titles to his truck, motorcycles, and trailer; British pounds; Euros; and Boudette’s passport. No charges were ever filed against Boudette.

Boudette filed a motion for return of his property citing Crim. P. 41(e). He stated the warrant was insufficient on its face; the property seized was not described in the warrant; and there was not probable cause to believe the existence of the grounds on which the warrant was issued. He served the motion on the district attorney. The district court, sua sponte, issued an order dismissing Boudette’s case for lack of standing because he filed a criminal motion and there was no criminal case against him.

On appeal, Boudette contended that he has standing to bring his claim. Boudette alleged an injury-in-fact, the unlawful seizure of his property, and harm to a legally protected interest, because Crim. P. 41(e) permits him to bring a claim for the return of his unlawfully seized property. Although there was no criminal complaint filed against Boudette, Rule 41(e) is still applicable because (1) the Colorado Rules of Criminal Procedure govern all criminal proceedings, which include proceedings before a criminal complaint or information has been filed, and (2) Rule 41(e) does not require that a person be a criminal defendant to file a motion under that rule.

The order was reversed and the case was remanded with directions.

Summary provided courtesy of Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Supreme Court: Suppression Not Warranted where Defendant Dropped Drugs Prior to Seizure

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in People v. Taylor on Monday, April 30, 2018.

Arrest—Seizure—Suppression.

Pursuant to C.A.R. 4.1, the People challenged an order of the district court granting Taylor’s motion to suppress drug evidence. The supreme court held that the district court erred in granting Taylor’s motion to suppress because no seizure had yet taken place when Taylor dropped the drugs.

The court reversed the district court’s suppression order and remanded the case for further proceedings.

Summary provided courtesy of Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Supreme Court: Compliance with Departmental Policy Insufficient to Bring Seizure of Vehicle Within Exception to Fourth Amendment Warrant Requirement

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in People v. Quick on Monday, April 16, 2018.

Inventory Search—Impoundment.

The People brought an interlocutory appeal, as authorized by C.R.S. § 14 16-12-102(2) and C.A.R. 4.1, from a district court order granting Quick’s motion to suppress a gun found during an inventory search of his car. The district court initially denied the motion, but in light of the court of appeals’ opinion in People v. Brown, 2016 COA 150, __ P.3d __, it found that where Quick was merely cited, and not actually arrested, for driving with a suspended license, and where the only justification offered for seizing his car was instead the likelihood that he would continue to drive and thereby endanger public safety, the initial seizure of his car did not fall within the community caretaking exception to the probable cause and warrant requirements of the Fourth Amendment.

The supreme court affirmed the district court’s order. Compliance with a departmental policy or procedure is insufficient in and of itself to bring the seizure of a vehicle within an exception to the Fourth Amendment warrant requirement. Moreover, seizing a vehicle to prevent the driver from continuing to drive with a suspended license does not fall within the specific community caretaking exception.

Summary provided courtesy of Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Supreme Court: Seizure of Vehicle Not Justified as Exercise of Police Caretaking Function

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in People v. Brown on Monday, April 16, 2018.

Inventory Search—Impoundment.

The People petitioned for review of the court of appeals’ judgment reversing Brown’s drug-related conviction on the ground that his motion to suppress should have been granted. See People v. Brown, 2016 COA 150, __ P.3d __. The district court found that the contraband in question was discovered during an inventory search of defendant’s vehicle, the conduct of which was within the officers’ discretion according to the policies and procedures of the Aurora Police Department, even though they had already decided to issue a summons rather than arrest defendant for driving with a suspended license. By contrast, the court of appeals found that in the absence of an arrest, seizing defendant’s vehicle to provoke an inventory of its contents could not be justified as an exercise of the police caretaking function, and in the absence of any other recognized exception to the probable cause and warrant requirements of the Fourth Amendment, violated its prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures.

The supreme court affirmed the court of appeals’ judgment. The record failed to demonstrate that seizure of defendant’s vehicle was justified as an exercise of the police caretaking function or was otherwise reasonable within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment, regardless of local ordinances or police policies and procedures broad enough to grant the officers discretion to impound the vehicle of a driver merely summoned rather than arrested for driving with a suspended license.

Summary provided courtesy of Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Supreme Court: Officers Acquired Reasonable Suspicion By the Time Stop Became Investigatory

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in People v. Fields and People v. Reed on Tuesday, January 16, 2018.

Contact-Short-of-a-Stop—Reasonable Articulable Suspicion—Probable Cause—Inevitable Discovery.

The People brought interlocutory appeals, as authorized by C.R.S. § 16-12-102(2) and C.A.R. 4.1, from the district court’s orders suppressing contraband and statements in the related prosecutions of defendants Fields and Reed. The district court found that the initial contact with both defendants in a parked car constituted an investigatory stop for which the police lacked reasonable articulable suspicion, and it suppressed all evidence acquired after the point of initial contact as the fruit of an unlawful stop.

The supreme court reversed the district court’s suppression orders and remanded the case for further proceedings. The court held that the district court failed to appreciate that the officers’ initial contact with defendants fell short of a stop. By the point at which the contact progressed to a seizure within the contemplation of the Fourth Amendment, the officers had acquired the requisite reasonable articulable suspicion, and subsequently probable cause, to justify their investigative conduct, or inevitably would have lawfully arrested defendants and discovered the contraband.

Summary provided courtesy of Colorado Lawyer.