United States v. Hopkins, 27951.

Citation433 F.2d 1041
Decision Date17 December 1970
Docket NumberNo. 27951.,27951.
PartiesUNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Leo Tom HOPKINS, Defendant-Appellant.
CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)

433 F.2d 1041 (1970)

UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,
Leo Tom HOPKINS, Defendant-Appellant.

No. 27951.

United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit.

November 9, 1970.

Rehearing Denied December 17, 1970.

James P. Screen, Guy Johnson, New Orleans, La., for defendant-appellant.

Eldon B. Mahon, U. S. Atty., B. H. Timmins, Jr., Charles D. Cabaniss, Asst. U. S. Attys., Dallas, Tex., for plaintiff-appellee.

Before TUTTLE, WISDOM, and GOLDBERG, Circuit Judges.

GOLDBERG, Circuit Judge:

Leo Tom Hopkins was convicted by a jury on January 25, 1968, for transporting a stolen 1966 Chevrolet automobile from Illinois to Texas in violation of the Dyer Act, 18 U.S.C.A. § 2312. On this appeal, Hopkins raises two basic issues: (1) whether or not the trial court erred

433 F.2d 1042
in admitting into evidence the fruits of a warrantless search of the 1966 Chevrolet automobile, and (2) whether or not the trial court erred in admitting into evidence statements made by appellant to federal and state officers. Disagreeing with appellant's contentions on both issues, we affirm the conviction below

Hopkins' primary contention is that it was reversible error for the trial court to admit into evidence testimony concerning the manufacturer's serial number of the stolen 1966 Chevrolet automobile which Dallas police observed inside the car. On October 27, 1967, Hopkins was arrested by Dallas police and jailed on a state assault charge. While Hopkins was in jail, on October 29, 1967, the Dallas police received an anonymous telephone call from a woman, reporting that Hopkins had stolen a car in Illinois and brought it to Dallas. She said that this automobile, a 1966 Chevrolet bearing Illinois license plates, was parked on a Dallas street in the vicinity of Hopkins' apartment. Dallas police officers went to the scene and recorded the license plate number of this car, ascertained from Illinois authorities that these plates were registered to a different car, and towed the car away. Following impoundment, but on the same day, a Dallas police officer conducted a brief investigation of the car. He unlocked the front door with Hopkins' key and examined the plate affixed to the door post to determine the vehicle identification number. After examining this plate, the police officer removed it because its appearance led him to believe that it was not the original plate affixed to the car by the manufacturer. On the next day, October 30, the same officer again investigated the car to locate a confidential identification number secreted on the vehicle by the manufacturer. This investigation, which lasted about an hour and a half, produced the information that the manufacturer's confidential number did not correspond with the number on the door post plate. During these investigations of the automobile the car remained impounded, Hopkins was secured in jail, and the Dallas police never obtained a search warrant. Subsequently this confidential identification number was testified to at trial over Hopkins' objection.

Hopkins contends that while the 1966 Chevrolet was validly in possession of the Dallas police, information concerning the identification number observed on October 30, was inadmissible because it constituted the fruits of a warrantless search invalid under the Fourth Amendment. While this argument once might have raised serious questions, we think that our decision in United States v. Johnson, 5 Cir. 1970, 413 F.2d 1396, aff'd en banc, 431 F.2d 441, is indistinguishable in all relevant particulars and compels rejection of Hopkins' allegations. We quote the en banc opinion in its entirety:

"PER CURIAM: The Court en banc is of the opinion that the panel correctly decided that inspections of motor vehicles performed by police officers, who were entitled to be on the property where the vehicles were located, which in no way damaged the vehicles and were limited to determining the correct identification numbers thereof were not searches within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment; and that alternatively, if either of such inspections constituted a Fourth Amendment search, then no search warrant was necessary because such inspections were reasonable and did not violate the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers or effects. To the extent that Glisson v. United States, 406 F.2d 423 (5th Cir. 1969) would find such a search or inspection constitutionally infirm, that decision is expressly overruled by this opinion." Footnote omitted.

Hopkins further objects to the admission into evidence of statements he made to law enforcement officials while incarcerated in the Dallas jail. After the Dallas police had made their discoveries concerning the 1966 Chevrolet automobile,

433 F.2d 1043
they passed this information on to the FBI. On November 2, 1967, Hopkins was taken from the fifth floor of the Dallas jail to a third floor interrogation room for a meeting with FBI...

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