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Inventory Search: What should police be allowed to use?

Should the police be allowed to use everything they find against an individual in an inventory search? Explain your reasoning.

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1. Should the police be allowed to use everything they find against an individual in an inventory search? Explain your reasoning.

If the officer has probable cause to search, and obtains a warrant to search the premises, they should be allowed to the extent the law allows to use everything found in the inventory as it pertains to breaking the law. This is common sense. If the search was for a concealed weapon, but drugs were found instead, should the officer be allowed to seize the drugs and charge the individual? The answer is yes.

Case example: United States v. Walker No. 97-6442

[T]he fact that the pat-down revealed narcotics rather than a

weapon did not make the frisk impermissible. If the frisk for a

weapon is conducted in compliance with proper standards and

results in recognition of the likely presence of narcotics, it is

immaterial that what was discovered is not the article for which the

police officers were originally and specifically looking.http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/cgi-bin/getcase.pl?court=6th&navby=case&no=99a0228p

The common sense exception is sometimes applied. For example, in a roadside stop, the driver opens a glove box to get their registration or proof of insurance, and the officer views what in his or her experience looks like a container of drugs or a weapon. This sets up probable cause based on common sense. http://faculty.ncwc.edu/Mstevens/410/410lect14.htm

See attached document for search and seizure rules and exceptions.


As early as 1925 (Carroll v U.S.), the U.S. Supreme Court has recognized the "automobile exception" to the warrant requirement. Over the years, this exception has been expanded to include boats, airplanes, motor homes and other motorized vehicles. This exception is allowed if probable cause was shown that items of evidence were in the vehicle and it was not practicable to obtain a warrant. The Court reasoned that due to its mobility, the vehicle could be moved prior to the officer obtaining a warrant. The Court, of course, reviews the "exigency of the circumstance" in each case and often suggests, if possible, the car be seized and held until a warrant is obtained. In these cases, all that is waived is the prior approval of a judge or magistrate. The officer must later justify that the warrantless seizure, and subsequent search, was based on probable cause. Remember ?seizure and search are two separate operations. You may have occasion to seize the vehicle and then apply for a warrant to search it.

Example cases for exception to Warrant for Vehicles

HAMBERS v Maroney 399 US 42 (Warrantless Search of Vehicle) (no bulletin). If probable cause exists to
search an automobile, it is reasonable under the Fourth Amendment to: 1) either seize and hold the automobile
before presenting the probable cause to a magistrate; or 2) carry out an immediate search without a warrant.

South Dakota v OPPERMAN (Inventory Search) bulletin no. 8. Although the U.S. Supreme Court upholds
"inventory exception" to the warrant ...

Solution Summary

This solution examines the notion that the police should be allowed to use everything they find against an individual in an inventory search. Rationale provided including many examples of court cases.