State v. Villela – Washington Supreme Court

Court: Washington Supreme Court
Case No.: 
Hearing Date: 

Case Description:
A police officer stopped Mr. Villela for speeding and ultimately arrested him for DUI. The officer impounded Mr. Villela’s vehicle pursuant to RCW 46.55.360, which says that impound is mandatory when a driver is arrested for DUI. During the inventory search that followed the impound, police discovered drugs and paraphernalia. The State charged Mr. Villela with possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver, and Mr. Villela moved to suppress the evidence police discovered during the inventory search, arguing that RCW 46.55.360 violates the Washington Constitution by mandating a vehicle be impounded even when reasonable alternatives to impound exist. The trial court granted Mr. Villela’s motion, and the State petitioned the Washington Supreme Court for discretionary review. The Washington Supreme Court accepted review.

Amicus Description:
Amici argue that RCW 46.55.360 violates article I, section 7 of the Washington Constitution by mandating that all vehicles driven by a person arrested for DUI be impounded even if reasonable alternatives to impoundment exist. A vehicle impound disturbs private affairs, especially because it is accompanied by an inventory search. The legislature cannot annul constitutional protections and create authority of law for a disturbance of private affairs. The courts, not the legislature, determine what constitutes authority of law under article I, section 7.