Challenging Vehicle Inventory Searches

The drug defense attorneys at GRL Law are known for aggressively challenging searches by police, particularly those arising from vehicle inventories.  Those searches occur after police impound a car following a traffic stop.  Before towing, police will inventory the contents to protect primarily against claims of lost or stolen property. 

Police often locate drugs and paraphernalia during the course of the inventory and bring additional charges against the occupants.

It should come as no surprise that police often abuse their authority to initiate inventory searches as a means to poke around the car without a warrant when they have no other legal justification to search.  We know . . . shocking, right?!

Few criminal defense attorneys put in the necessary effort to uncover the written (or unwritten) policy or routine to determine the metes and bounds of police inventory searches.

Not GRL Law. 

We challenge these searches by closely scrutinizing the department’s policies for impounded cars.  We often find that they direct officers to “thoroughly” search the passenger compartment and “any containers” found inside.  Essentially, these policies permit the police to search with abandon.  They enunciate no standards whatsoever.  It is nothing more than a ruse to rummage through the car for incriminating information.

We also critique the officer’s actual inventory.  Generalized, unspecific and non-denominated entries like “paperwork,” “tools” or “money” hardly protect the department against lost property claims.  And police usually pay extra attention to the contents of some containers.  Pro tip: don’t store joints, bindles, straws or foil in cigarette packages.  

Furthermore, we examine the totality of circumstances to see if the search is pretextual in scope and substance or performed in bad faith.  If the search becomes objectively unreasonable or is done for investigatory purposes, then the charges may be dismissed.

GRL Law.  We know vehicle inventory searches.