People v. ZabalaAnnotate this Case
Defendant, driving with a suspended license, was stopped by a Santa Clara County Sheriff’s deputy for a traffic infraction. The vehicle was searched following the deputy’s decision to impound it. The deputy found baggies filled with a white substance in a paper bag under the driver’s seat. She showed those baggies to Deputy Dorsey, who thought the substance might be cocaine. After field testing produced negative results, he concluded it was a cutting agent to be mixed with a controlled substance. Dorsey then noticed that the radio console “looked loose, like it had been manipulated.” Using his pocket knife, Dorsey removed the console, which was loose, and between air conditioning ducts behind the stereo he found several bags of a white crystalline substance that he recognized as methamphetamine. Defendant was charged with possession for sale of methamphetamine, transportation of methamphetamine, and driving with a suspended license. The information alleged four prior narcotics convictions. The court denied defendant’s motion to suppress the methamphetamine as the fruit of an unlawful inventory search. The court of appeal affirmed. Removal of the console exceeded the scope of a permissible inventory search but the search was supported by probable cause and was lawful under the automobile exception to the warrant requirement.