Appeal from Superior Court of King County. Docket No: 94-1-07847-6. Date filed: 08/21/95. Judge signing: Hon. George T. Mattson.
Authored by Mary K. Becker. Concurring: Walter E. Webster, Pro Tem Judge.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Becker
BECKER, J. -- A jury convicted Alan Hampton on charges that he engaged in sexual intercourse with his 14 year old niece. The evidence included a provocative photograph of the girl, found by police during a warrantless search of Hampton's wallet. Concluding that the search was reasonable, we affirm the conviction. We also affirm the exceptional sentence because it was not erroneous to find that the "at-risk" victim was particularly vulnerable to Hampton's abuse of trust.
The defendant, Alan Hampton, is T.L.'s uncle by marriage. Hampton and his wife became the guardians of T.L. in 1992 when she to came to Seattle to escape troubles she was having with school, friends, and family in Denver, Colorado. At that time Hampton was a Seattle police officer.
T.L. testified that in November of 1993, when Hampton was giving her a goodnight kiss, he touched her breasts. A few nights later, Hampton came into T.L.'s bedroom and they engaged in sexual intercourse for the first time. T.L. was 14 years old. They had sex again at the end of December, and on a regular basis from February through April of 1994. T.L. told her friends about her sexual relationship with Hampton, but instructed them not to tell authorities about it.
In July of 1994, T.L. returned to Colorado. There she continued to receive numerous letters from Hampton. Eventually, Hampton told her he wanted to change the relationship into "just being my uncle again". Angry, T.L. told her counselor in Colorado about her sexual relationship with Hampton. She also told her friends to tell the truth to investigators.
Based on probable cause the police arrested Hampton at his desk in the Telephone Reporting Unit of the Seattle Police Department. The State charged him with three counts of rape of a child in the third degree. The jury convicted him on one count of rape of a child and two lesser included offenses of communication with a minor for immoral purposes.
Hampton appeals from the judgment and exceptional sentence.
SEARCH OF WALLET AND SEIZURE OF PHOTOGRAPH
Hampton contends the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress, as the product of a warrantless search, a photograph of T.L. that was in his wallet when he was arrested. From testimony at the suppression hearing, the trial court found the following. Hampton did not have a permanent desk in which he could have left his property when he was arrested, because officers working in his division were assigned desks for a single day. Upon arrest he was searched for weapons. The arresting officers took Hampton to a facility across the street. As a courtesy they arranged to transport him to a jail other than the King County jail, in case somebody in King County recognized him as a police officer. Sergeant Miller took possession of Hampton's wallet but did not immediately search it because he was attending to the special booking arrangements. About three hours after the arrest, Sergeant Miller returned to his office where he had locked the wallet, and inventoried the items in it because he was concerned about his own liability if Hampton later alleged something was missing. Miller intended to transfer the property to Mrs. Hampton, as requested by the defendant, even though the property normally would have followed Hampton to jail. While doing so, he found a provocative picture of T.L. which he recognized to be of evidentiary value, and seized it.
Because there is substantial evidence in the record supporting these findings, we take them as verities. *fn1
Hampton assigns error to the trial court's Conclusions that the search of the wallet was lawful as a search incident to arrest, and as an inventory search. We review these Conclusions as a matter of law. *fn2
Searches incident to a lawful arrest are exceptions to the warrant requirement under the Fourth Amendment. *fn3 Relying on United States v. Chadwick, *fn4 Hampton argues that because three hours elapsed between the arrest and the search of his wallet, the search was too remote in time to be reasonable. In Chadwick, a drug possession case, officers seized a locked footlocker they found in the open trunk of defendants' waiting car.
The officers kept the locker in their exclusive custody in the federal building, and searched it an hour-and-a-half after the arrest. Holding the search ...