ANOTHER MOTOR VEHICLE SEARCH WARRANT EXCEPTION IS KNOWN AS THE INVENTORY SEARCH.
An inventory search of a vehicle occurs when the police are impounding a vehicle. As long as the vehicle is being lawfully impounded, the police can search the vehicle as long as the search is conducted pursuant to a standard departmental policy.
An inventory search does not authorize the police to conduct a search for evidence inside the vehicle. A search for evidence requires a search warrant or the search must fall under some other search warrant exception.
The point is, the police cannot justify a search for evidence under the inventory search exception. As long as an inventory search is a routine procedure of the impounding law enforcement agency, then the search does not require a warrant or probable cause.
However, if the police happen to find evidence of a crime, say drugs or guns, during the inventory search, that evidence can be used against you and is admissible in court.
COURTS VIEW INVENTORY SEARCHES AS ADMINISTRATIVE, RATHER THAN INVESTIGATIVE.
This is why a search warrant is not required. The purpose of an inventory search is not to uncover evidence of a crime. Although it may seem like that, and it may seem like police use the inventory search as a pretext for searching for evidence, on its face, courts have attached an administrative purpose to an inventory search. Courts have determined that the primary purpose of a departmental policy authorizing an inventory search is to protect the property owner’s property while in police custody, to protect the police against fraudulent claims of stolen or vandalized property, and to protect police personnel from potentially dangerous items.
IN ORDER FOR AN INVENTORY SEARCH TO BE VALID, THE INITIAL IMPOUNDMENT OF THE VEHICLE MUST BE LAWFUL.
If the tow is unlawful, our Minnesota criminal defense lawyers will argue to a judge that any evidence found during the inventory search cannot be admissible. Also, the departmental policy authorizing the inventory search must be sufficiently limited so as to not give the police officer unlimited discretion as to where or what or how to search the vehicle.
There is no clear-cut rule on whether an inventory search authorizes the opening and/or searching of locked or closed containers found in the vehicle. The departmental policy must be examined in order to determine whether the police conducted a lawful inventory search of closed or locked containers.
Our Minnesota criminal defense lawyers will investigate the policy and fight to protect the privacy of your vehicle and its contents.
CRIMINAL DEFENSE LAWYERS YOU CAN TRUST
Contact our Minneapolis/St.Paul criminal defense lawyers if you feel your vehicle was illegally towed or search by the police.
Our lawyers will review the facts and circumstances of the search of your vehicle. If unlawful, our criminal defense lawyers will fight to have the evidence suppressed.