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This guide is intended as an aid for students and attorneys who seek assistance with, or a deeper understanding of, searches and seizures of automobiles. The guide is divided by resource type:
This research guide focuses on searches and seizures of automobiles involving the (1) Scope of the search, (2) Probable cause, (3) Incident to arrest, (4) Inventory, (5) Consent, (6) Plain view, and (7) Standing.
What is Searches and Seizures of Automobiles?
Search on Nolo.com
"In criminal law, to examine another's premises (including a vehicle) or person to look for evidence of criminal activity. It is unconstitutional under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments for law enforcement officers to conduct a search without a 'search warrant' issued by a judge, or without facts that give the officer 'probable cause' to believe evidence of a specific crime is present and there is not enough time to obtain a search warrant."
Seizure on Nolo.com
"The taking of physical evidence or property by law enforcement officials. Siezed [sic] evidence can include taking blood for a drug test to impounding a car used in a robbery. In most cases, the police must obtain a search warrant before they can seize personal property."
Search and Seizure on Nolo.com
"In criminal law, the phrase that describes law enforcement's gathering of evidence of a crime. Under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, any search of a person or his premises (including a vehicle), and any seizure of tangible evidence, must be reasonable. Normally, law enforcement must obtain a search warrant from a judge, specifying where and whom they may search, and what they may seize, though in emergency circumstances, they may dispense with the warrant requirement."
Katz v. United States, 389 U.S. 347 (1967)
The first case under the Fourth Amendment to introduce the idea of a reasonable expectation of privacy was Katz v. United States, 389 U.S. 347 (1967). This case dealt with a federal agent attaching an eavesdropping device to the outside of a public phone booth used by Katz.
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated; and no Warrants shall issue but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
U. S. Const. amend. IV
Differences Between New York State Law and Federal Law
Protections in the New York State Constitution Beyond the Federal Bill of Rights
The U.S. Supreme Court's interpretation of the Fourth Amendment is the foundation for searches and seizures of automobiles. Every state in the United States must follow that foundational protection. However, each state has the option to provide greater protection than the foundation set by the U.S. Supreme Court's interpretation of the U.S. Constitution. And New York has chosen to grant more protection under the New York State constitution than the U.S. Supreme Court has granted interpreting the U.S. Constitution. New York State law grants a passenger in a taxi cab standing to challenge the search of the taxi cab, unlike federal law which does not grant standing to passengers. New York State law considers canine sniffs as searches while the U.S. Constitution does not.
Types of searches and seizures
Incident to Arrest on uslegal.com
"A lawful search incident to arrest is usually limited to the person and immediate surroundings of a suspect who is lawfully arrested."
Plain View Doctrine on Nolo.com
"The rule that allows a law enforcement officer to seize evidence of a crime, without obtaining a search warrant, when that evidence is in plain sight."
Inventory search on uslegal.com
"An inventory search must follow established departmental policies and satisfy the objectives of preserving the property of the defendant, shielding the police against claims of lost property, and protecting the police and others from any dangerous objects."
Consent searches on uslegal.com
"Consent searches are searches made by U.S. law enforcement personnel based on the consent of the individual whose person or property is being searched."
Probable Cause on law.com
"Sufficient reason based upon known facts to believe a crime has been committed or that certain property is connected with a crime. Probable cause must exist for a law enforcement officer to make an arrest without a warrant, search without a warrant, or seize property in the belief the items were evidence of a crime."
Research Guide on Searches and Seizures of Automobiles