Seven year old Robert lived with his mother and sister at his grandmother’s house. A party took place at the home and the grandmother’s boyfriend and the boyfriend’s bother, Charles Blake, attended. Blake went inside with the children and a teenage cousin found Blake pulling Robert back and forth in a strange way.
Robert’s sister saw the same thing and noted that Robert had a strange look on his face. Robert hid under a table and was shaking and had tears in his eyes. He told his mother that Blake had been “in there digging in my butt.” Blake’s mother then grabbed a bottle and charged toward Blake who fled.
The next day, Blake went to the police station for questioning and told them he had left his bag behind when he fled from Robert’s enraged mother. He asked for Sergeant Norman Starks’s help to get it back. Robert’s uncle had the bag and agreed to drop it off at the police station.
Before returning the bag to Blake, Starks opened the bag and inventoried its contents in front of Blake and Blake’s brother, apparently without any objection. On top of all items in the bag was a tube of “Warm Touch” warming gel lubricant. Blake was convicted of sexual battery and sentenced to life. On appeal he argued the bag was improperly searched. MSC affirmed.
Any expectation of privacy Blake may otherwise have enjoyed disappeared when Blake told Starks about the bag he left at the crime scene and willingly enlisted the officer’s help in getting it back. In Gales, we said that when Gales voluntarily took out his money and showed it to the police, he extinguished his reasonable expectation of privacy as to the money.
Further, Starks had a legitimate purpose in conducting the inventory search. The bag was delivered into Sergeant Starks’s care, while Blake was at the police station for questioning. Starks testified he followed standard police procedure. He opened the bag and catalogued its contents in front of Blake, with no apparent objection, to make sure that the contents in the bag was the exact contents that Blake knew to be his. This was done so Blake could not claim any items were taken.
The United States Supreme Court in South Dakota v. Opperman, 428 U.S. 364 (1976) found that inventory procedures serve to 1) protect an owner’s property while it is in the custody of the police, 2) to insure against claims of lost, stolen, or vandalized property, and 3) to guard the police from danger. Thus, the inventory search of Blake’s bag was not unreasonable and the contents of the bag were not fruit of the poisonous tree.