United States District Court, N.D. Oklahoma
OPINION AND ORDER
GREGORY K. FRIZZELL UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
January 7, 2019, this Court denied the Motion to Suppress
Evidence [Doc. 13] of defendant Evan Jamon Woodard on the
record. [Doc. 22]. In order to memorialize the court’s
decision, the court enters the following opinion and order.
12, 2018');">18, two Tulsa Police Department (“TPD”)
officers responded to a call in North Tulsa from
defendant’s ex-girlfriend (Ms. Quanita Landrum)
alleging the defendant had violated a protective
order. Upon arrival, the TPD officers learned
that the protective order had not been served on defendant
and defendant was no longer on the premises. TPD officers
told Ms. Landrum that they would search the area for the
defendant to serve him with the protective order. Ms. Landrum
described the car defendant was driving and indicated the
direction he had gone. One of the officers ran a records
check on the defendant and discovered that he had an active
misdemeanor warrant for public intoxication.
patrolling the area, the officers spotted defendant’s
car and activated their lights to pull him over. Defendant
continued driving for approximately 10 seconds, pulling off
into a QuikTrip parking lot. The officers followed defendant
into the parking lot, initiated the traffic stop, and placed
defendant under arrest for the outstanding warrant. At some
point during or soon following the arrest, two additional TPD
the defendant was placed under arrest for the outstanding
misdemeanor warrant, the TPD officers decided to impound the
car defendant was driving and conduct an inventory search.
TPD officers found a black bag containing marijuana and a
white powdery substance that later tested presumptively
positive for cocaine. TPD officers also found a small digital
scale and a loaded pistol in a partially open backpack. TPD
officers proceeded to ask defendant if he had any prior
felony convictions, which defendant admitted to. At that
point, a TPD officer read the defendant his Miranda
rights. At no point during the arrest did defendant admit
that the car was his, nor did the TPD officers discover
evidence of car insurance.
filed a motion to suppress evidence from the warrantless
inventory search of his car on October 11, 2018');">18. [Doc. 13].
The government responded on November 15, 2018');">18. [Doc. 18');">18]. The
court heard testimony and oral argument on the matter on
November 26, 2018');">18 [see Doc. 48] and January 7, 2019
[see Doc. 49');">49]. Upon consideration of the
parties’ briefing, argument of counsel, and testimony
presented, the court concluded that the motion should be
denied. [Doc. 49');">49, p. 73]. Accordingly, the court denied the
motion on the record. [Id., pp. 73-74].
searches are a well-recognized exception to the warrant
requirement of the Fourth Amendment. Colorado v.
Bertine, 479 U.S. 367, 371 (1987) (upholding inventory
search of closed containers before vehicle
impoundment). However, the Fourth Amendment still
requires that the inventory search be
“reasonable.” Id. The issue in this case
was whether the impoundment-and related inventory search-was
reasonable under the Fourth Amendment, especially given that
the vehicle was parked on private property belonging to
Tenth Circuit has held “impoundment of a vehicle
located on private property that is neither obstructing
traffic nor creating an imminent threat to public safety is
constitutional only if justified by both standardized
criteria and a reasonable, non-pretextual
community-caretaking rationale.” United States v.
Sanders, 796 F.3d 1241, 1248 (10th Cir. 2015). The
government argued that the impoundment here was
constitutional, despite the car not impeding traffic or
impairing public safety, because it was conducted pursuant to
(1) a standardized policy and (2) a reasonable,
non-pretextual community-caretaking rationale. [Doc. 18');">18, pp.
6-7]. This court agreed.
the impoundment was conducted pursuant to standardized
criteria. TPD policy on impounding vehicles
Officers will impound vehicles only when necessary. Officers
are authorized to move or cause to be removed any vehicle
from a street, highway, shoulder, or other public way to the
nearest garage designated or maintained by the City of Tulsa
that meets the criteria for vehicle impoundment. State
statute prohibits officers from using the insurance database
as the primary reason for a traffic stop. Officers shall use
discretion when impounding vehicles based on the lack of
Tulsa Police Dep’t, Proc. File No. 31-112G, Procedure
re: Impounding Vehicles, General (2018');">18). Procedure 1(b)
further specifies that “Officers may impound
A vehicle has been abandoned or the driver was
arrested and the vehicle is left unattended in
a location that would constitute a traffic hazard or is
highly susceptible to damage or vandalism. This
includes private property open to the public when the offense