People v. ZabalaAnnotate this Case
Defendant was stopped for a traffic infraction. The vehicle was searched following the deputy’s decision to impound it. Methamphetamine was found in a hidden compartment. Defendant was charged with possession for sale and transportation of methamphetamine and driving with a suspended license, with four prior narcotics convictions. Deputy Dorsey testified that the deputy who had initiated the stop found four blue baggies of equal size filled with a white substance in a paper bag under the driver’s seat. She showed those baggies to Dorsey. After field testing for cocaine produced negative results, Dorsey concluded it was a cutting agent, then noticed that the radio console “looked loose,” and suspected a hidden compartment. Using his pocket knife, Dorsey removed the loose console and between the air conditioning ducts behind the stereo, found bags of a white crystalline substance that he recognized as methamphetamine. Dorsey was trained in recognizing how illegal drugs are packaged and transported and was accepted as an expert. The court denied the motion to suppress. Defendant pleaded no contest. The court of appeal affirmed. While removal of the console exceeded the scope of a permissible inventory search, the search was supported by probable cause, based on the discovery of the baggies, and was lawful under the automobile exception to the warrant requirement.