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USA v. Brian L. Hines, 005-2542.  A bank fraud case.  At the time of defendant’s arrest by warrant, agent’s see a hatchet in def’s vehicle. Agent’s ask def for consent to search. Def denies permission until agent states that he will impound the car and conduct inventory search of vehicle. Def consents to search.

The district court says the consent was not voluntary, but the automobile exception allows a search of the vehicle incident to arrest.

The 7th Circuit agrees and states that the search is ok. The court cites the automobile exception for searching a vehicle where there is probable cause to believe that the search will uncover contraband or evidence of a crime. Here, for a variety of reasons, the Seventh Circuit finds there was probable cause to search the vehicle, and thus, the search is ok.

The opinion also holds that the government’s burden for proving sentencing enhancements are squarely on the government by a preponderance of the evidence. The district court shifted this burden to the defendant and thus a sentencing remand was warranted.


For the full opinions visit the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals Web Site.

For more about attorney Michael J. Petro, visit