1. “Does the ability to search a suitcase incident to a lawful arrest turn on the nature of the container?”
2. “Did the Fourth Court err in finding that the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals opinion in Lalande v. State, 676 S.W.2d 115 (Tex. Crim. App. 1984) could not be reconciled with this Court’s opinion in State v. Daugherty, 931 S.W.2d 268 (Tex. Crim. App. 1996)?”
After an informant notified police that Price would be flying into San Antonio with drugs, police set up surveillance with a drug dog. The drug dog gave a positive alert on Price’s suitcases. Police retrieved the suitcases and took Price to a secure location, where he was arrested and Mirandized. After invoking his right to remain silent, police searched the suitcases and found marijuana. Price filed a motion to suppress, alleging that the search was illegal. The trial court denied the motion.
On appeal, Price claimed that the search was unlawful in the absence of consent or a warrant. The court of appeals framed the issue as a search-incident-to-arrest dependent on whether the suitcases were “immediately associated” with Price when he was arrested. The court rejected that rationale and, in the process, drew a distinction between the suitcases and other items that are universally associated with an arrestee. Unlike a purse or wallet, luggage is not usually “immediately associated” with an arrestee.
Next, considering Court of Criminal Appeals’ precedent, the court concluded that under Lalande v. State, the search was lawful. Lalande stated that once it is “unequivocally clear” that an item will accompany a detainee in custody, the right to search “accrues immediately.” But, continuing, the lower court held that Lalande is inconsistent with State v. Daugherty, which rejected the inevitable discovery rule. So “the fact that the suitcases would have been inventoried when they accompanied Price to jail did not authorize their search at the airport office.”
The State contends that the court of appeals incorrectly focused on the type of bag instead of proximity. The State points out the court’s faulty logic: “if Price had been carrying a backpack or a shoulder bag, then the police could have performed a proper search incident to arrest, but since he had a suitcase, the search was improper.” The State argues that the suitcases were “immediately associated” with Price because his hands were on them at the time of his arrest.
The State also contends that the inevitable discovery rule is not implicated here. The rule hinges on the premise that the evidence was illegally obtained. However, here, under Lalande, the inventory search was justified at the outset; there was no illegality that would trigger inevitable discovery.