Can a cop search my car for impound purposes?

UPDATED: Sep 30, 2022

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Can a cop search my car for impound purposes?

I got pulled over and the driver of my car got arrested. They told me they had to impound the car because I couldn’t drive. I’m the owner of the car, they told me that I was good to go home, and that I couldn’t have someone come get the car because if I left it and it got broken into, they could get in trouble. I started walking home and thenthey told me come back to the car because they found marijuana. Is it okay that they searched my car without me being present and without my permission?

Asked on April 5, 2017 under Criminal Law, Nebraska


M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

The police are allowed to search an impounded vehicle to conduct what is called an “inventory search”. Such a search doesn’t require a warrant or probable cause since it isn’t supposed to be a search for evidence of a crime. The theory is that the police should be able to search the car and create an inventory of items to protect both the owner from the theft of any items in it and to protect themselves from any theft claims. Also, inventory searches are permitted for the purpose of police protection; officers should be free to search for anything in the car that could endanger them. That all having been said, such searches may be held invalid for several reasons. Therefore, at this point, you should consult directly with a local criminal law attorney; they can best advise you further.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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