Law Offices of John P. Winicov

The Fourth Amendment protects you against unreasonable police searches of your property. But what about your car; can the police search your car without probable cause ? The answer is “maybe.” The police are allowed to search your vehicle whenever they have the right to tow your car. 75 Pa.C.S.A. § 6309.2(a)(1) If you are stopped without a valid driver’s license, vehicle registration or if you license is suspended, the police may have your car towed and impounded if the car is blocking traffic or poses a safety concern. If the police have the right tow your car then they are permitted to conduct an “inventory search” without any warrant or probable cause. Pennsylvania courts allow an “inventory search” of a car because it is considered different from an “investigatory search.” Investigatory searches are done after police have a warrant or probable cause to search for evidence of a crime, while inventory searches are done only to keep track of your belongings left in your vehicle being towed. Of course, if the police find anything illegal in your car when they conduct an inventory search then you will be arrested for a crime.

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