“Did the court of appeals err in concluding that an employee retained an expectation of privacy in his work vehicle several days after he was arrested and after the vehicle was returned to his employer?”
King, a semi-driver, was arrested while driving his employer’s vehicle. His employer re-took possession of the truck. Several days later, police asked King’s employer to retrieve King’s cell phone from the truck and give it to them, which he did. Police found child porn on the phone. King challenged the search and seizure of the phone in a pretrial suppression motion, which was denied, and the evidence was admitted during the punishment phase of King’s injury-to-a-child trial.
On appeal following his conviction, King re-urged his suppression issue. The court of appeals agreed and remanded for a new punishment hearing, rejecting the State’s argument that King lacked standing because he had no expectation of privacy in his employer’s truck or its contents.
The State argues that the court of appeals’ decision “unreasonably extends an employee’s expectation of privacy in a work vehicle.” It contends that the proper timeframe is not King’s expectation of privacy while he was still driving the truck but after he had been arrested and the vehicle was no longer under his control. Under those circumstances, no reasonable employee would believe he retained privacy in the vehicle or its contents indefinitely. They would understand that the employer would be permitted to use the vehicle in whatever way they wished. The court of appeals confused the State’s argument that he lacked reasonable expectation of privacy with an argument that King had abandoned the cell phone. It notes that, like control over a hotel room reverts to the hotel upon eviction of the guest, control over the vehicle reverted to the employer when King was arrested. Regardless of whether the property owner initiated the removal, “any expectation of privacy that the individual maintains in the location he has been removed from is no longer one that society would view as reasonable.”