What began as the case of an abandoned recreational vehicle grew into a lasting eyesore for Placer High School and the surrounding area.
Not only was this vehicle illegally parked in Placer’s staff parking section, hogging valuable parking spaces, but upon inspection of the motorhome, Auburn Police Department discovered five unloaded firearms.
Prior to the new school year for Placer students, a full-scale motorhome was parked in the staff parking section in the lower parking lot. Reportedly, School Resource Officer and Auburn Police Department Lieutenant Joe Almeida was “notified on August 13” about the vehicle: the day before school returned to session.
However, at the time, there were seemingly no visible efforts made to resolve the issue, despite the fact that the vehicle was parked illegally. Yet, this was due to significant complications surrounding the vehicle that drastically delayed its removal from the campus.
One of the leading issues during the process was the guideline for code enforcement that required Auburn Police Department to take on a specific legal basis. As confirmed by Almeida, this legal basis entails that the motorhome be “marked with a ninety-six hour tow,” during which period evidence must be presented that asserts the need for the vehicle’s confiscation.
Furthermore, Almeida stated that law enforcement “must abide by the 22669 vehicle code.” This vehicle code specifies that “motor vehicles which are parked, resting, or otherwise immobilized on any… public right-of-way and which lack an engine, transmission, wheels, tires, doors, windshield, or any other part or equipment necessary to operate safely on the highways of this state, are hereby declared a hazard to public health, safety, and welfare and may be removed immediately upon discovery by a peace officer or other designated employee of the state, county, or city.” During its presence in the staff parking section, the motorhome was missing half of its two-piece windshield.
Though this code encourages the immediate action of the police, this is where a civil issue prevented the progression of the procedure. As the motorhome made its way from San Francisco to the heart of Auburn, the owner was apparently residing in Oregon at the time, which suggests the possibility of a separate person then responsible for the vehicle.
Moreover, Auburn Police Department needed to ensure the rights of the vehicle’s ownership through the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution, which prohibits “unreasonable searches and seizures” of property, specifically housing, such as a motorhome.
Ultimately, the “community caretaking” doctrine, serving as an exception to the Fourth Amendment, allowed for the entry of the motorhome for police inspection.
Upon the attempt to have the motorhome towed, Placer’s administration, in collaboration with Auburn Police Department, was faced with a significant issue regarding the appraised towing fee of $100 per foot of length of the vehicle. In the end, this equated to $3,000 for the 30-foot Recreational Vehicle.
As was confirmed by school Principal Steve Caminiti, “fortunately, the school did not have to burden the cost of the tow.”
Subsequent with the motorhome’s tow from the staff parking section, the discoveries and suspicions by the police rose to an unexpected level upon the revelation of firearms in its contents. The concerns of Placer’s administration only increased, according to Leonard Shull, Placer campus monitor and staff member.
More importantly, this occurrence has brought light to a series of questions related to the possible risk the motorhome presented while on campus. Due to the fact that this vehicle, containing five unloaded firearms, remained on Placer’s campus for nearly two weeks past the start of the school year, there was considerable time for the unauthorized entry and inspection of the vehicle by anyone interested. Resultantly, this would have allowed for the removal of items, including additional firearms, from the vehicle during this period.
Upon further investigation, the general perspective of Placer’s administrative staff was revealed. According to Ronda Black, Senior School Administrative Assistant, “it was a project we got to as soon as the vehicle showed up… We were trying to have it towed, but there were no towing companies that were willing.”
Even though the motorhome has been relocated to Sacramento for destruction, the full effects of its prolonged presence in Placer’s lower staff parking section are yet unknown. However, according to Vice Principal Tim Sprinkles, this was the result of the necessary balance between funding for incoming students for the new year and an abandoned vehicle that encroached upon the campus. “We have to decide whether we are going to invest in removing an RV or put those funds into our students,” Sprinkles explained.