Under the 4th Amendment, police are barred from conducting unreasonable searches and seizures. Generally, this means that a search conducted without a search warrant is considered illegal. However, the Supreme Court has identified numerous exceptions that allow police officers to conduct unwarranted searches and seizures which are considered lawful. This article will focus on one particular exception, the inventory search.
What Is An Inventory Search?
An inventory search is a warrantless search of a lawfully impounded vehicle conducted by police. The purpose of an inventory search is for the police to determine the contents of a vehicle in order to fulfill a variety of administrative functions. First, an inventory search protects any of the owner’s property located inside the vehicle by producing a detailed list of property contained within the vehicle following impoundment. Second, an inventory search protects the police from claims by the owner of lost or stolen property as result of the impoundment. Finally, inventory searches protect the police from dangerous items that may be hidden or located inside the vehicle.
Why Are Police Allowed to Conduct Inventory Searches?
Police are allowed to conduct inventory searches because courts have upheld inventory searches, since they are not actively used to find incriminating evidence and are therefore administrative in nature. Courts have classified inventory searches as being a reasonable example of a police officer’s caretaking responsibility. However, inventory searches must be reasonable in nature in order to be considered Constitutional. As such, a valid inventory search must follow established procedures or guidelines and not be disguised as a warrantless evidence search.
How Could This Affect Me?
If you are ever in a situation where your vehicle is impounded, an inventory search will likely be conducted on your vehicle and almost anything inside your vehicle will be found and inventoried by police officers at the police impound lot. As such, if your car contains anything that may implicate you in criminal charges, it will likely be found.
If you have been charged with a crime after the police have searched your vehicle through an inventory search, it is important to consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney that can help zealously defend your case. Contact Us at Minick Law, P.C. for a free consultation on your case.