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Can your vehicle be searched if impounded?

One must always be concerned about an inventory search should your vehicle be impounded after an Operating While Intoxicated or other traffic stop. This impoundment is permissible in the event no one is available to drive the vehicle from the scene after the driver has been arrested. The justification for the search is to create an inventory of all items found in the vehicle for safekeeping. However, such searches frequently result in the discovery of additional evidence for the filing of additional charges such as possession of illegal drugs or an unlicensed handgun in addition to the original traffic offense.

Impoundment and inventory searches of vehicles are unreasonable unless the State can show the searches were in keeping with established, particular police departmental routine or regulation. Generalized or conclusory assertions about such regulations are inadequate to make that showing. While written policies are not necessary to show established departmental routine or regulation, absent such writing the burden is on the police department through testimony of its officers to show that a standardized impoundment procedure exists.

In Smith v. State, the Indiana Court of Appeals determined that handgun found in the defendant’s car during an inventory search at the scene of his arrest for driving while suspended should not have been admitted into evidence. The State failed to establish that the arresting officer’s decision to impound the vehicle adhered to established departmental routine or regulation when the police officer testified merely in conclusory terms as to the department’s policy and failed to specifically describe how the impoundment decision adhered to the department’s procedure. As a result, the carrying a handgun without a license conviction was reversed.

With over 37 years of experience, Steven Knecht is familiar with the possible defenses to operating while intoxicated, possession of marijuana and other criminal charges. If you find yourself having been arrested, you should immediately hire an experienced criminal defense lawyer that you can trust such as Steven Knecht to help you fight the State because you have a lot at stake on the outcome.

Filed to Ask a Lawyer, Criminal Defense, Operating While Intoxicated

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