You, The Law and Your Rights During Police Inventory Searches

by Judge Warren Fitzgerald

The objective  of this series of articles is to enable its reader to learn the basic laws, rights and rules of conduct one should know to avoid incarceration and reduce the chances of recidivism.  Of course it is impossible to eliminate the occurrence of arrests for that is beyond one ultimate control; an officer can and may arrest you improperly if he/she chooses, and there is nothing one can do without the risk of injury or loss of life.  The judicial system may provide vindication at some later date.  Notwithstanding, to be Forewarned is to be Forearmed.  To know the basic functions of the Criminal Justice system, your rights and certain rules of conduct may greatly enhance one‘s chances of successfully negotiating the system and remaining free.

Searches-Inventory Search

A true inventory search is conducted in accordance with standard police procedure, and the burden is on the state to show compliance with such procedure .

Proper scope of inventory search is :

(a) Passenger compartment of vehicle.

(b) Glove compartment.

An inventory search may include an unlocked glove compartment. It may extend to a locked glove compartment when a key is readily available.

An inventory search may include the trunk when the search may be conducted without using force to open the trunk.

Closed containers may be opened during an inventory search only when standardized criteria call for the opening of containers .

Plain View

The plain view doctrine authorizes the seizure of certain objects, rather than searches of them

The officer must be able to make this determination at the time the officer is viewing the item .  This is common in drug cases where the officer says that some or all of the drugs were in plain view.  If so then the resulting search is justified and the evidence found will be used at trial.

Consent

Of course, an officer may search without a warrant when one has given consent to the search..

The  voluntariness of consent by considering factors such as :

(a) Voluntariness of defendant’s custodial status.

(b) Presence of coercive police procedures.

(c) Extent and level of defendant’s cooperation with police.

(d) Defendant’s awareness of right to refuse consent.

The failure to admonish the defendant that he or she does not have to submit to a search does not automatically invalidate the consent, but the occurrence or lack of a warning is of evidentiary value in determining the validity of the consent .  Consent is invalid when it is merely submission to a claim such as one by the officer that he or she has a warrant to search .

Attorney Warren Fitzgerald Muhammad is a native of a Acres Homes Community. He is both an Attorney and Municipal Court Judge. His office is located at 6415 W. Montgomery, Houston Texas 7091. He may be contacted at 713-692-4688.

 

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