[Copyrighted Material Omitted]
Douglas Moody, Assistant Public Defender, and Quinlan Steiner, Public Defender, Anchorage, for the Appellant.
W.H. Hawley, Assistant Attorney General, Office of Special Prosecutions and Appeals, Anchorage, and Michael C. Geraghty, Attorney General, Juneau, for the Appellee.
Before: MANNHEIMER, Chief Judge, ALLARD, Judge, and E. SMITH, Superior Court Judge.[*]
Jonathan Neal Jarnig was arrested on suspicion of driving a stolen vehicle. After he was handcuffed and placed in a patrol car, the police searched the vehicle and discovered a zippered nylon bag under the front passenger seat. The police opened the bag and found drugs and drug paraphernalia. Based on this evidence, Jarnig was convicted of third-degree misconduct involving a controlled substance. Jarnig argues that the search of the bag was illegal and that the superior court should have suppressed the evidence found in the bag.
We conclude that the superior court applied the wrong legal analysis and failed to make all the necessary factual findings when it upheld the search of the bag as a search incident to arrest. We therefore remand this case to the superior court for additional factual findings and reconsideration of this issue.
Facts and proceedings
On December 4, 2006, the Anchorage police stopped a black Pontiac Grand Am they believed had been stolen and they arrested the driver, Jonathan Jarnig. The police handcuffed Jarnig and placed him in a patrol car. While Jarnig was in custody in the patrol car, Officer James Trull searched the passenger compartment of the Pontiac. Trull discovered a black nylon bag wedged under the front passenger seat, underneath the lever used to move the seat forward and backward. After extracting the bag, Trull opened the bag and found drugs and drug paraphernalia, two cell phones, a change purse, and a toothbrush. Jarnig denied any knowledge of the bag. He said he borrowed the car from a man named George he met at the Avenue Bar.
Jarnig was charged with third-degree misconduct involving a controlled substance  and first-degree vehicle theft. Before trial, he moved to suppress the evidence found in the search of the bag, arguing that the search was illegal. Superior Court Judge Patrick J. McKay denied the motion, ruling that the warrantless search was a valid search incident to arrest. At trial, Jarnig was convicted of the drug charge and acquitted of vehicle theft. On appeal, Jarnig renews his contention that the search of the bag was unlawful.
Jarnig has standing to challenge the seizure of the ...