In a recent case decided by the 8th Circuit an inventory search of a air filter compartment under the hood of vehicle was upheld as a valid inventory.

United States v. Ball (8th Cir. Oct. 29, 2015) Search of an air filter compartment under hood of vehicle that revealed cocaine upheld as valid inventory exception supported by policy and officers testimony.

The above case illustrates 3 important points in reference to inventories:

  • Agencies should have a comprehensive inventory policy,
  • Officers must conduct an inventory in accordance with that policy,
  • Officers should routinely follow their inventory polices and be prepared to offer testimony on the routine of their actions.

Great job to the officers involved.

An inventory conducted on a lawfully impounded vehicle is a well defined exception to the warrant requirement of the Fourth Amendment.  If evidence is located during the inventory process if can be used against the defendant later in a criminal trial.

Purpose of an inventory:

1.  Protect owner’s property while in law enforcement custody,
2.  Protect law enforcement against claims or disputes over lost or stolen property, and
3.  Protect law enfoceemnt from potential dangers located in property.

Scope of an inventory:

It is important to remember that the scope of an inventory is defined by the standardized inventory policy of your agency.  Generally inventories may not extend any farther that is reasonably necessary to discover valuables or other items for safekeeping.  Searches of containers, locked or unlocked, may be conducted, so lang as the standardized inventory policy permits.