Florida v. Wells - Oral Argument - December 04, 1989

Florida v. Wells

Media for Florida v. Wells

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - April 18, 1990 in Florida v. Wells

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - December 04, 1989 in Florida v. Wells

William H. Rehnquist:

We'll hear argument now in Number 88-1835, Florida against Martin Leslie Wells.

Mr. Neimand.

Michael J. Neimand:

Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court:

During a lawful inventory search of a locked... a locked suitcase was opened for inventory.

The Florida Supreme Court suppressed the evidence found therein, finding that the Fourth Amendment requires that the scope of an inventory to be explicitly stated.

Florida asked this Court to hold than an inventory search encompasses the entire contents of the vehicle, including closed containers.

Such a rule of law will be incontinent with the purposes of Opperman and, as we affirm, in Bertine.

That is to satisfy and protect the property of the individual for safekeeping, and the police from false claims of... and due to loss of property.

The scope of an inventory in and of itself states that you are to catalogue the doc, the documents and the property found within the car.

It is solely to areas where valuable personal property would attach.

In the case before the Court, the Florida Supreme Court found that there was a good faith impoundment, and that the inventory of the interior of the car, as well as the inventory of the trunk, was lawful.

What the Florida Supreme Court found then, that the opening of the... the prying open of the locked suitcase to inventory that, was unlawful and violative of the principles announced in Bertine, because it held that Bertine required standardized procedures listing the exact nature and scope of an inventory search.

The state position in front of this Court is that Bertine does not require such a detailed listing, just that there be procedures, whether written or oral, that all inventory... all impounded cars are inventoried.

By requiring that all impounded cars are inventoried, this will take away the evidentiary discretion that this Court has so declared unconstitutional in its previous cases.

The evidentiary discretion would be taken away because every car would then be subject to inventory.

The inventory would then be--

John Paul Stevens:

May I ask, in this case, where is the inventory in the record?

Is it in the record?

Michael J. Neimand:

--The actual inventory list?

No, it's not, Your Honor.

The reason it is not in the record is because of the history of this case.

The inventory initially was declared improper because it... the defendant was not given a reasonable opportunity to do something other than have the car impounded, in other words, to have someone drive it away or to leave it on the street.

Florida is a Fourth Amendment state.

By our state constitution we have adopted--

John Paul Stevens:

--But they did, they did make an inventory sheet?

Michael J. Neimand:

An inventory does in fact exist.

John Paul Stevens:

And... but you didn't put it in the record?

Michael J. Neimand:

It was never in the record, no, sir.

John Paul Stevens:

So we don't know whether they inventoried the contents of the suitcase or not.

Michael J. Neimand:

We do not know if it is on the inventory sheet, no.