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Knife properly collected under automobile exception and/or plain view seizure

Facts

Trevor Hoskins and Linda Taylor were in a relationship and driving home one night when they had an argument about ex-boyfriends. As Hoskins drove past the house, he went to an area where people fish and stopped the car. When she refused to get out, he started hitting her. He dragged her out of the car, beat her down to the ground, and started kicking her. Taylor eventually passed out.

When she woke up, Hoskins saw that she was moving and began kicking her again. Hoskins went to his car and retrieved a rusty knife. Taylor testified she was drifting in and out of consciousness. She stated she did not remember him cutting her, but woke up with lacerations to her neck.

Hoskins continued to assault her. Taylor stated Hoskins halted his assault when she began to pray. He asked her what she was going to tell her family. Satisfied with the answer, he took her home. Police arrested Hoskins and recovered the knife from the car. He was convicted of domestic aggravated assault and sentenced to 20 years. On appeal, he argued the search of the car was illegal. MCOA affirmed.

Analysis

The knife was on the driver’s side floorboard in plain view. There was a large amount of blood throughout the vehicle. The officer testified he photographed the vehicle as part of his investigation because he thought it could be part of the crime scene. The vehicle was readily mobile. Given the amount of blood in the vehicle, there was cause to believe the vehicle contained evidence of the crime and that the knife had been used to inflict injury.

In McKee, this court said that a police officer may seize an object in plain view if the officer can see it from a place he has a lawful right to be, the object’s incriminating character is readily apparent, and the officer has a lawful right of access to the evidence. Probable cause is  required under the plain view doctrine.

In Roche, the MSC said that the automobile exception applies if a car is readily mobile and probable cause exists to believe it contains contraband.

The search fell within the plain view and automobile exceptions to the warrant requirement, and this issue is without merit.

Thoughts

In addition to probable cause and readily mobile, the car must also be in a public place to utilize the automobile exception. The U.S. Supreme Court in Collins said that automobile exception searches can not take place inside the curtilage of a home.

 

https://courts.ms.gov/images/Opinions/CO99927.pdf