Inevitable Discovery Saves Warrantless Search Of Bag
US v. Seay:Seay was in a hotel room with Bracey, when they were asked to leave by police in response to complaints from hotel staff. As they were leaving, Seay was carrying a clear plastic bag. After searching the room, finding ammunition and drug paraphernalia, Seay and Bracey were questioned. Particularly, Bracey, who cops were planning to arrest on drug charges, said that they clear bag was “ours.” It was searched, without a warrant, uncovering a firearm. Seay was eventually charged with being a felon in possession of that firearm. His motion to suppress was denied because the district court concluded the officers would have inevitably discovered the gun.
The Fourth Circuit affirmed. It pointed to testimony of the officers involved that the clear plastic bag would have been inventory searched in one of two ways – either as Bracey’s property when she was booked after being arrested or if she wanted to give it to Seay before she was taken away. Both were consistent with department policy. The court rejected Seay’s argument that because the officers had some discretion in how to conduct an inventory search in the second instance (if Seay had taken it) that did not make the decision to search so discretionary as to not be a valid inventory search.