Police cannot impound a car as pretext or an excuse to look inside for evidence of a crime. Woodard.

The Fourth Amendment imposes “heightened requirements on police who seize vehicles from private property.” United States v. Sanders, 796 F.3d 1241, 1249 (10th Cir. 2015).

These heightened requirements allow impoundments from private property, like the impoundment of Mr. Woodard’s car, only when (1) the car is blocking traffic, (2) the car is posing an imminent threat to public safety, or (3) the impoundment is justified by a standardized policy and a reasonable, non-pretextual rationale of community caretaking

Mr. Woodard’s car was parked in a QuikTrip parking lot after he pulled over for the officers, who were executing an outstanding misdemeanor warrant.

The Tenth Circuit concluded that the impoundment fell outside the local impoundment policy. The Court also looked at whether this impoundment was pretextual. It was. The Court considered several factors, and found that all pointed to pretext:

(1) the car was on private property.
(2) the officers did not consult the property owner.
(3) Mr. Woodard asked if he could call someone to pick up the car, and the police refused.
(4) the car was not itself evidence of a crime.
(5) Mr. Woodard did not consent to impoundment.

The impoundment violated the 4th Amendment and was pretextual. All evidence seized as a result of the illegal impoundment must be suppressed (not used in trial against the defendant).

Full Opinion here: UNITED STATES OF AMERICA v. EVAN JAMON WOODARD, https://www.ca10.uscourts.gov/sites/ca10/files/opinions/010110553052.pdf

Anton Vialtsin, Esq.
LAWSTACHE™ LAW FIRM | Criminal Defense and Business Law
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