A is a member of a drug cartel. Using a truck, he transports drugs up the west coast from the Mexico-California border. He keeps the drugs he transports hidden in his camping gear, which he stores in the back of the truck.
A is running a shipment of drugs north from the border. He is taking his usual route, which for added secrecy consists mostly of lonely backroads. For that reason, A is often alone for long stretches of the drive. A, hoping to keep himself awake, decides to have a little fun and begins speeding wildly, pretending to be a race car driver.
As A speeds through the steep, curvy, and treacherous terrain, a county sheriff clocks A driving 90 miles per hour through a 45 mile-per-hour zone. The sheriff follows A and signals to him to pull over. When A pulls off the road, he realizes that a bag of heroin is sitting on the front passenger seat beside him. A scrambles to wedge the bag into the center console, out of the sheriff’s view.
Unfortunately for A, it is a crime to drive more than 40 miles per hour above the speed limit. The sheriff decides to place A under arrest, without a warrant. There is no smell or sign of active drug use in the vehicle. As the sheriff pats A down, he finds a gun in A’s jacket pocket and seizes it. Next, the sheriff decides to put A through a field sobriety test, which A passes. The sheriff then handcuffs A and puts him in the back of the squad car. Without a warrant, the sheriff decides to inspect the passenger compartment of the vehicle. So doing, the sheriff quickly finds the heroin stashed in the center console.
A knows no one in the area who can take his truck away. To avoid leaving the truck ona winding, dangerous road where another driver might hit it, the sheriff decides to have the truck impounded at the local precinct. A statute in this state allows law enforcement to impound a vehicle where it poses a danger to passersby. Per routine procedure and, again, without a warrant, officials at the impound lot conduct an inventory search of the truck when it arrives. The search yields fifteen pounds of cocaine, all in the camping gear stored in the back of A’s truck.
A is charged with possession of controlled substances with intent to distribute. Before trial, A files a motion to exclude from evidence the drugs seized from both his person and his truck. A argues that the warrantless searches and seizures violated his rights under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments. Assume that, in this jurisdiction, the inevitable discovery exception applies whenever an independent investigation inevitably would have led to discovery of the evidence, regardless whether the investigation was ongoing at the time of the unconstitutional conduct.
- How should the court rule? Explain, but do not analyze any other issue that may be raised by the case.