Pretextual inventory search conducted as a ruse for a criminal investigation. People v. Torres 2010

The purpose behind the decision to impound is crucial because of the reason for condoning inventory searches of impounded cars. “In the interests of public safety and as part of what the Court has called `community caretaking functions,’ [citation], automobiles are frequently taken into police custody.” ( Opperman, supra, 428 U.S. at p. 368.) “When vehicles are impounded, local police departments generally follow a routine practice of securing and inventorying the automobiles’ contents. These procedures developed in response to three distinct needs: the protection of the owner’s property while it remains in police custody, [citation]; the protection of the police against claims or disputes over lost or stolen property, [citation]; and the protection of the police from potential danger, [citation].” ( Id. at p. 369.) “[T]his Court has consistently sustained police intrusions into automobiles impounded or otherwise in lawful police custody where the process is aimed at securing or protecting the car and its contents.” ( Id. at p. 373.)

The decision to impound the vehicle must be justified by a community caretaking function “other than suspicion of evidence of criminal activity” ( Bertine, supra, 479 U.S. at p. 375) because inventory searches are “conducted in the absence of probable cause” ( Whren, supra, 517 U.S. at p. 811). “

Thus, as the United States Supreme Court has explained, inventory search cases apply “the principle that an inventory search must not be a ruse for a general rummaging in order to discover incriminating evidence.

Full case here: People v. Torres, 188 Cal.App.4th 775 (Cal. Ct. App. 2010),

Anton Vialtsin, Esq.
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