By GAIL OBER, LACONIA DAILY SUN
LACONIA — A judge has determined that a city police officer’s search of a car’s glove box that had been zip-tied shut was lawful and consistent with the police department’s search policy.
An attorney representing Izaiah Conway, 19, of Laconia had argued that when an officer used a screwdriver found in the car to peek into the glove box because it wouldn’t open, he violated his own department’s policy and Conway’s Fourth Amendment right against unlawful search and seizure.
Conway was stopped by another officer and arrested immediately on an outstanding warrant. Since his car was parked partially in the road, a second officer determined he needed to be towed and set about to conduct a routine and noninvestigatory search.
He first tried to open the glove box, realized it was tied and proceeded to the rest of the car. He found a backpack in the trunk that contained a pipe the officer believed was evidence of drug use. The officer seized the backpack and stopped searching the rest of it with the intention of seizing it and getting a warrant to search further for additional contraband.
The officer continued the inventory search to see if the car should be impounded by police or towed to a tow lot.
He returned to the glove box, which is one of the places the tow policy says must be searched. Once the officer looked in the opening, he noticed the butt of a handgun that, after he towed the car to the police station to get a search warrant, ended up being loaded, and that the glove box held an additional magazine that was also loaded.
Judge James O’Neil ruled this week that the officer’s search was consistent with the police department’s towing policy that states that if a car is to be towed, it can be searched.
O’Neil noted specifically that there was no damage done to the glove box when the officer looked into it, which is one of the conditions placed on officers in the police tow policy.
“According to LPD policy, an officer is required to search the entire vehicle, including the glove box, before a vehicle is towed,” wrote O’Neill. “Under the policy, Officer (Kyle) Jepson had the affirmative obligation to fully inventory the defendant’s vehicle before he allowed the tow company to take possession of the vehicle.”
Conway is charged, among other things, with being a felon in possession of a deadly weapon and possession of drugs.
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