PART 3 of 5: Vehicular Searches Without a Warrant. Automobile Exception or The Carroll Doctrine.

The automobile exception to the warrant requirement was first established by the Supreme Court in Carroll v. United States (1925), and provides that, if a law enforcement officer has probable cause to believe that a vehicle has evidence of a crime or contraband located in it, a search of the vehicle may be conducted without first obtaining a warrant. 267 U.S. 132 (1925)

There are two rationales for this exception: (1) inherent mobility of vehicles typically makes it impracticable to require a warrant to search, (2) reduced expectation of privacy in a vehicle supports allowing a warrantless search based on probable cause.

Officers need probable cause. In United States v. Ross, the Supreme Court explained: “[O]nly the prior approval of the magistrate is waived; the search otherwise [must be such] as the magistrate could authorize.” United States v. Ross, 456 U.S. 798 (1982).

The vehicle must also be mobile. California v. Carney, 471 U.S. 386 (1985).

SCOPE: Officers may search anywhere they have probable cause to believe that incriminating evidence is located. It is not always the whole vehicle. See California v. Acevedo, 500 U.S. 565 (1991).

Anton Vialtsin, Esq.
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