Florida Court Rules that Police Officers Cannot Search Every Vehicle Impounded

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 vehicle search of a vehicle was invalid and declared an unlawful search. The defendant, Kilburn, was arrested for Florida DUI (driving under the influence). The police officer towed Kilburn’s car, because it was in an unsafe location. As part of the process, officers conducted an inventory search, but they did not have any standardized criteria or procedures for such a search. During the search, they found marijuana, alprazolam, and hydrocodone inside of a pill bottle. Kilburn was also charged with possession of these drugs.

The Florida appellate court ruled that while inventory searches are permitted, in order for this warrant exception to apply, “the inventory search must be ‘conducted according to standardized criteria.’ State v. Wells, 539 So. 2d 464, 468 (Fla. 1989)… The requirement for standardized criteria serves to limit police discretion in determining the scope of the search and ensures that the police will not abuse the exception and use the inventory search as a subterfuge for a criminal investigatory search. Id. at 469; see also Rolling v. State, 695 So. 2d 278, 294 (Fla. 1997).”

Contact Information