566 P.2d 705 (Colo. 1977), 27638, People v. Rutovic

Docket Nº:27638.
Citation:566 P.2d 705, 193 Colo. 397
Opinion Judge:GROVES, Justice.
Party Name:The PEOPLE of the State of Colorado, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. Radomir RUTOVIC, Defendant-Appellee.
Attorney:John F. Healy, Dist. Atty., John M. Blish, Deputy Dist. Atty., Eagle, for plaintiff-appellant., Terence J. Quinn, Eagle, for defendant-appellee. John F. Healy, Dist. Atty., John M. Blish, Deputy Dist. Atty., Eagle, for plaintiff-appellant.
Case Date:July 25, 1977
Court:Supreme Court of Colorado

Page 705

566 P.2d 705 (Colo. 1977)

193 Colo. 397

The PEOPLE of the State of Colorado, Plaintiff-Appellant,

v.

Radomir RUTOVIC, Defendant-Appellee.

No. 27638.

Supreme Court of Colorado, En Banc

July 25, 1977

John F. Healy, Dist. Atty., John M. Blish, Deputy Dist. Atty., Eagle, for plaintiff-appellant.

Terence J. Quinn, Eagle, for defendant-appellee.

GROVES, Justice.

[193 Colo. 398] This case involves the warrantless search of an automobile. The People contend that the search was valid since it was conducted by police for inventory purposes. The district court granted defendant's motion to suppress certain incriminating evidence found in the car during the search. The district attorney instituted this interlocutory appeal to contest that ruling. We affirm.

The defendant was arrested in Vail, Colorado, and charged with felony theft, section

Page 706

18-4-401, C.R.S. 1973. He had allegedly stolen over $200 from the cash register of a gasoline service station in Vail Village. After defendant's arrest and incarceration, the arresting officer drove the defendant's car to the Vail Police Department's impound lot. Once there, and without obtaining a search warrant, two officers conducted what they styled to be an "inventory search" of the automobile. Inside the zippered cover of the automobile's front seat armrest, the police officers discovered fourteen twenty-dollar bills.

The ruling of the court was as follows:

"The Court grants the motion to suppress . . . on the grounds that the car was impounded by the policemen and held by them and under their complete control for a period of four hours on a Monday at a time when a warrant could have been obtained. There were no exigent circumstances requiring or permitting a search without obtaining a warrant."

The People's only contention is that because the search was conducted pursuant to the police department's standard policy concerning inventory search, the warrantless search was valid. Under the circumstances of this case, we do not agree. Despite the fact that the type of search coincided with an official department regulation, the search here was tantamount to a general rummaging. Its focus was accusatory, being an exploration seeking to discover incriminating evidence against the defendant.

Cross-examination of one of the officers brought out the following:

"Q: While you were making the inventory...

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