Police May Search a Car without a Warrant in Jacksonville if it is an Inventory Search

In Jacksonville, Florida, if a driver is placed under arrest and the vehicle he is driving is impounded, the vehicle is usually searched as part of an inventory search. An inventory search is an exception to the rule that requires Jacksonville police officers to have a warrant before conducting a search. With a Jacksonville Florida Inventory Search, a police officer may search a vehicle without a warrant if the it was lawfully seized and “a search conducted for the purpose of making an inventory of the contents of an automobile.” State v. Jenkins, 319 So. 2d 91, 93 (Fla. 4th DCA 1975). However, an “‘inventory” search will be unreasonable if it is utilized as a pretext to conduct an ‘exploratory’ search in order to hunt for incriminating evidence.” Id.

It is important to note that warrantless searches are considered unreasonable and violate the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution as applied to the States, including Florida, through the Fourteenth Amendment. Coolidge v. New Hampshire, 403 U.S. 443, 454-55 (1971). Although an inventory search is a well-established exception to the warrant requirement in Florida, the state attorney, not the Jacksonville Criminal Defendant, has the burden to prove that an exception to the warrant requirement applies. Hilton v. State, 961 So. 2d 284, 296 (Fla. 2007); Colorado v. Bertine, 479 U.S. 367, 371 (1987).

In Kilburn v. State, 36 Fla. L. Weekly D394b (Fla. 1st DCA 2011), the Florida First District Court of Appeals ruled that a Florida inventory search of a vehicle was invalid. See Florida Court Rules that Police Officers Cannot Search Every Vehicle Impounded by Jacksonville Criminal Defense Lawyer.

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