U.S. Supreme Court
United States v. Ibarra, 502 U.S. 1 (1991)
United States v. Ibarra
Decided October 16, 1991
502 U.S. 1
While stopped for a vehicle operating violation, respondent gave police permission to search his car, but they found nothing. However, they impounded the car because respondent had no operator's license, and they found cocaine during a subsequent search. Respondent filed a pretrial motion to suppress the evidence from the second search, which the Government contested on the ground that the search was conducted pursuant to his continuing consent. However, the Government abandoned this argument, and the District Court granted respondent's motion. The Government subsequently moved for reconsideration of the suppression order, again raising the consent issue, but the court denied the motion. The Court of Appeals dismissed the Government's appeal as untimely, holding that the Government's motion to reconsider did not "toll" the 30-day period to appeal, which began to run on the date of the initial order. The court also held that this Court's decisions in United States v. Healy, 376 U. S. 76 -- that a motion for rehearing renders an otherwise final decision of a district court not final until it decides the motion -- and United States v. Dieter, 429 U. S. 6 (per curiam) -- that there is no exception to Healy's rule for petitions for rehearing which do not assert an alleged error of law -- did not control in a case where the Government's motion is based on a previously disavowed theory.
Held: The Government's appeal was timely. All motions for reconsideration are subsumed under one general rule -- the rule laid down in Healy. If a merits inquiry were grafted onto the general rule, litigants would chanroblesvirtualawlibrarychanroblesvirtualawlibrary
be required to guess at their peril the date on which the time to appeal commences to run. An alternative method of analysis -- that the Government's motion was not a "true" motion for reconsideration, because the Government did not initially urge the argument on which it based the motion -- would also break down into subcategories the more general category of "motions for reconsideration" described in this Court's previous decisions.
Certiorari granted; 920 F.2d 702, vacated and remanded.