Colorado v. BrownAnnotate this Case
Carl Brown was charged with and convicted of possession with intent to distribute a schedule II controlled substance, stemming from the discovery of crack cocaine during an inventory search of his vehicle. He was sentenced to ten years in the custody of the Colorado Department of Corrections. The State petitioned for review of the court of appeals’ judgment reversing Brown’s drug-related conviction on the ground that his motion to suppress should have been granted. The district court found that the contraband in question was discovered during an inventory search of the defendant’s vehicle, the conduct of which was within the officers’ discretion according to the policies and procedures of the Aurora Police Department, even though they had already decided to issue a summons rather than arrest the defendant for driving with a suspended license. The court of appeals found that in the absence of an arrest, seizing the defendant’s vehicle so as to provoke an inventory of its contents could not be justified as an exercise of the police caretaking function, and in the absence of any other recognized exception to the probable cause and warrant requirements of the Fourth Amendment, violated its prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures. The Colorado Supreme Court found the trial court record failed to demonstrate that seizure of the defendant’s vehicle was justified as an exercise of the police caretaking function or was otherwise reasonable within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment, regardless of local ordinances or police policies and procedures broad enough to grant the officers discretion to impound the vehicle of a driver merely summoned rather than arrested for driving with a suspended license, the judgment of the court of appeals thus affirmed.