state constitution protects our right to privacy. CONST, art.
I, § 7. Under our constitution, the State and its agents
may not disturb our "private affairs . . . without
authority of law." Id. "Authority of
law" generally means a warrant issued by a neutral
magistrate or a longstanding exception to the warrant
asked today whether the legislature has created
"authority of law," as understood in our
constitution, by passing RCW 46.55.360. Laws OF 2011, ch.
167, § 3. Under RCW 46.55.360, officers are required to
impound a vehicle any time they arrest its driver for driving
under the influence. This impound is mandatory, regardless of
whether the vehicle is safely off the roadway or whether
another person is able to safely drive it away. The trial
court below found that RCW 46.55.360 violates our
constitution because it requires what the constitution allows
only under limited circumstances. We agree. Our constitution
cannot be amended by statute, and while the legislature can
give more protection to constitutional rights through
legislation, it cannot use legislation to take that
protection away. Accordingly, we affirm.
one night in January 2018, Sergeant Paul Snyder stopped a
jeep driven by Joel Villela for speeding. Sergeant Snyder
smelled alcohol on Villela's breath and, after Villela
declined a roadside field sobriety test, arrested him on
suspicion of driving while under the influence of intoxicants
(DUI). Sergeant Snyder also impounded Villela's jeep
under RCW 46.55.360. Following the dictates of RCW 46.55.360,
Sergeant Snyder did not consider whether there was a
reasonable alternative to impounding Villela's jeep, such
as releasing it to one of Villela's two passengers.
the jeep was impounded, Sergeant Snyder did an inventory
search of its contents. Sergeant Snyder found sandwich bags,
digital scales, black cloth, pipes, and $340 in cash, all of
which he believed was associated with drug dealing. A search
incident to arrest discovered cocaine on Villela himself.
Villela was charged with DUI and possession with intent to
deliver controlled substances.
moved to suppress the fruits of the inventory search on the
grounds that the mandatory impound of his jeep (which was the
only grounds for the search) was not a lawful seizure under
article I, section 7. At the hearing, the trial judge noted that
this issue had come up several times before in the Grant
County Superior Court, including in his own courtroom.
Villela offered evidence that the costs associated with even
a brief vehicle impound can easily exceed $1, 000 and may
result in the loss of the vehicle. The trial judge granted
the suppression motion, concluding:
[W]hile a state may impose more restrictive standards than
the constitution requires, it may not, as the Washington
legislature did when it enacted RCW 46.55.360, expand the
scope of police authority to [search] and seize under the
constitution. See Nathanson v. United States, 290
U.S. 41, [54 S.Ct. 11, 78 L.Ed. 159] (1933). That statute,
therefore, is unconstitutional.
Papers at 50.
parties agreed that there was good cause for immediate
review. RAP 2.4, 2.3(b)(4). Thus, there has been no trial
yet. Our commissioner granted the State's motion for
direct review. The Washington State Patrol submitted an
amicus brief supporting the State. The American Civil
Liberties Union of Washington, the Washington Defender
Association, the Washington Association of Criminal Defense
Lawyers, and the Institute for Justice filed a joint amicus
brief supporting Villela.
right to be free from searches by government agents is deeply
rooted in our nation's history and law, and it is
enshrined in our state and national constitutions."
State v. Day, 161 Wn.2d 889, 893, 168 P.3d 1265
(2007) (citing U.S. Const, amend. IV; Const, art. I, §
7). "Generally, officers of the State must obtain a
warrant before intruding into the private affairs of others,
and we presume that warrantless searches violate both
constitutions." Id. However, "[t]hat
presumption can be rebutted if the State shows a search fell
within certain 'narrowly and jealousy drawn [exceptions]
to the warrant requirement.'" Id. at 893-94
(second alteration in original) (quoting State v.
Stroud, 106 Wn.2d 144, 147, 720 P.2d 436 (1986),
overruled in part by State v. Valdez, 167 Wn.2d 761,
224 P.3d 751 (2009)).
challenges the constitutionality of the mandatory seizure
statute, RCW 46.55.360. "'We presume statutes are
constitutional and review challenges to them de
novo.'" State v. Lanciloti, 165 Wn.2d 661,
667, 201 P.3d 323 (2009) (quoting City of Seattle v.
Ludvigsen, 162 Wn.2d 660, 668, 174 P.3d 43 (2007)). As
the challenger, Villela bears the burden of establishing that
the statutorily mandated seizure of his vehicle violates our
constitution. Id. (citing Heinsma v. City of
Vancouver, 144 Wn.2d 556, 561, 29 P.3d 709 (2001)).
46.55.350-.360, also known as "Hailey's Law,"
was in part a response to a tragic car accident. Laws of
2011, ch. 167, ...