Police Inventory Searches: Valid or not?
Police inventory searches are where the police impound your vehicle and then subsequently search it. If the police conduct this wrong, then the evidence found in the vehicle may be suppressed and not used in a trial.
Determine whether the original arrestFirst step to determine whether an inventory search is valid is to determine whether the arrest that lead to the arrest was lawful. If the arrest is not lawful, then the inventory search is not valid. The Fourteenth Amendment protects citizens from unreasonable search and seizures.
Decide whether an inventory search needs a warrantA valid inventory search is a well-recognized exception to a search warrant. The validity of the inventory search is governed by three factors; protecting the private property while in police custody, protection of the police from claims of lost or stolen private property, and protecting the police from potential danger. To substantiate a valid inventory search, the impoundment must be valid to which the validity of the impoundment must be authorized by statute or under the police routine administrative caretaking function. Thus, a search under the police caretaking function, the State must show that the vehicle posed a threat or harm to the community, the vehicle was imperiled, and the decision for impoundment is consistent in keeping with well-established departmental routine.
Deciphering whether an impoundement is necessaryImpoundment of an illegally parked vehicle is not always valid under the constraints of an inventory search. The illegally parked vehicle must present a hazard within reasonable objective policing standards. Id. Factors in determining whether the vehicle is a hazard include the degree the vehicle is under control of the defendant and with the suspected length of time the vehicle would be left unattended would the vehicle be exposed to an unacceptable risk of theft of vandalism.