Motor vehicle exception

The motor vehicle exception is a legal rule in the United States that modifies the normal probable cause requirement of the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution and, when applicable, allows a police officer to search a motor vehicle without a search warrant.[1]

SF Police search the car
San Francisco Police searching a vehicle after a stop in 2008.


The motor vehicle exception was first established by the United States Supreme Court in 1925, in Carroll v. United States.[2][3] The motor vehicle exception allows an officer to search a vehicle without a search warrant as long as he or she has probable cause to believe that evidence or contraband is located in the vehicle.[4] The exception is based on the idea that there is a lower expectation of privacy in motor vehicles due to the regulations under which they operate. Additionally, the ease of mobility creates an inherent exigency to prevent the removal of evidence and contraband. In Pennsylvania v. Labron[5] the U.S. Supreme Court, stated, "If a car is readily mobile and probable cause exists to believe it contains contraband, the Fourth Amendment permits the police to search the vehicle without more."[4]

The scope of the search is limited to only what area the officer has probable cause to search. This area can encompass the entire vehicle including the trunk. The motor vehicle exception, in addition to allowing officers to search the vehicle, allows officers to search any containers found inside the vehicle that could contain the evidence or contraband being searched for. The objects searched do not need to belong to the owner of the vehicle. In Wyoming v. Houghton,[6] the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the ownership of objects searched in the vehicle is irrelevant to the legitimacy of the search.[4]

Some states' constitutions require officers to show there was not enough time to obtain a warrant. With the exception of states with this requirement, an officer is not required to obtain a warrant even if it may be possible to do so.[3]

In United States v. Ludwig, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals found that a search warrant is not required even if there is little or no risk of the vehicle being driven off. The court stated, "[i]f police have probable cause to search a car, they need not get a search warrant first even if they have time and opportunity." In United States v. Johns, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a search of a vehicle that had been seized and was in police custody for three days prior to the search. The court stated, "A vehicle lawfully in police custody may be searched on the basis of probable cause to believe it contains contraband, and there is no requirement of exigent circumstances to justify such a warrantless search."[3]

The U.S. Supreme Court in California v. Carney[7] found the motor vehicle exception to apply to a motor home. The court did however, make a distinction between readily mobile motor homes and parked mobile homes. A number of factors including, the home being elevated on blocks, whether the vehicle is licensed, and if it is connected to utilities determine if the motor vehicle exception applies. In United States v. Johns,[8] the motor vehicle exception was applied to trucks. In United States v. Forrest it was applied to trailers pulled by trucks. United States v. Forrest applied the exception to boats and in United States v. Hill to house boats.[9] In United States v. Nigro[10] and United States v. Montgomery[11] the motor vehicle exception was found to also include airplanes.[4]

Development of the exception

The automobile exception has gone through five phases as marked by Supreme Court cases:[12]

See also: Cooper v. California
See also: Preston v United States,[15] Dyke v Taylor Implement Mfg. Co.;[16] Coolidge v. New Hampshire,[17] Almeida-Sanchez v. United States,[18] Cardwell v. Lewis,[19] Texas v. White[20]
See also: United States v. Chadwick,[22] Colorado v. Bannister[23]
See also: California v. Acevedo,[25] Wyoming v. Houghton[26]
  • E. The clearer movement toward automobile—exigency
See also: Michigan v. Thomas,[27] United States v. Johns,[28] California v. Carney,[7] Maryland v. Dyson[29]

The vehicle exception does not include vehicles parked within private property where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy, which includes a home and its surrounding curtilage, defined by the Fourth Amendment, as determined in Collins v. Virginia (2018). The Supreme Court also ruled in the 2017 case Byrd v. United States that the motor vehicle exception also includes to those driving rental vehicles even if the driver is not listed on the rental agreement.

See also


  1. ^ Larson, Aaron (2 February 2017). "What Are Your Fourth Amendment Rights". ExpertLaw. Retrieved 11 September 2017.
  2. ^ a b "Carroll v. United States, 267 US 132, 45 S. Ct. 280, 69 L. Ed. 543 (1925)". Google Scholar. Google. Retrieved 11 September 2017.
  3. ^ a b c Regini, Lisa A. (1999). "The Motor Vehicle Exception". FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin. 68 (7): 26. Archived from the original on 16 December 2016. Retrieved 11 September 2017.
  4. ^ a b c d Hendrie, E. (August 2005). "The Motor Vehicle Exception." FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, 74, Retrieved August 14, 2006 Archived December 29, 2016, at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ "Pennsylvania v. Labron, 518 US 938, 116 S. Ct. 2485, 135 L. Ed. 2d 1031 (1996)". Google Scholar. Google. Retrieved 11 September 2017.
  6. ^ "Wyoming v. Houghton 526 US 295, 119 S. Ct. 1297, 143 L. Ed. 2d 408". Google Scholar. Google. Retrieved 11 September 2017.
  7. ^ a b "California v. Carney, 471 US 386, 105 S. Ct. 2066, 85 L. Ed. 2d 406 (1985)". Google Scholar. Google. Retrieved 11 September 2017.
  8. ^ "United States v. Johns, 469 US 478, 105 S. Ct. 881, 83 L. Ed. 2d 890 (1985)". Google Scholar. Google. Retrieved 11 September 2017.
  9. ^ "United States v. Forrest, 620 F.2d 446, 457 (5th Cir. 1980)". Google Scholar. Google. Retrieved 11 September 2017.
  10. ^ "United States v. Nigro, 727 F.2d 100, 103 (6th Cir. 1984) (en banc)". Google Scholar. Google. Retrieved 11 September 2017.
  11. ^ "United States v. Montgomery, 620 F.2d 753 (10th Cir. 1980)". Google Scholar. Google. Retrieved 11 September 2017.
  12. ^ 1-18 Search and Seizure § 18.3. Copyright 2008, Matthew Bender & Company, Inc., a member of the LexisNexis Group.
  13. ^ "United States v. Di Re, 332 US 581, 68 S. Ct. 222, 92 L. Ed. 210 , 267 US 132, 45 S. Ct. 280, 69 L. Ed. 543 (1925)". Google Scholar. Google. Retrieved 11 September 2017.
  14. ^ "Chambers v. Maroney 399 US 42, 90 S. Ct. 1975, 26 L. Ed. 2d 419 (1970)". Google Scholar. Google. Retrieved 11 September 2017.
  15. ^ "Preston v. United States, 376 US 364, 84 S. Ct. 881, 11 L. Ed. 2d 777 (1964)". Google Scholar. Google. Retrieved 11 September 2017.
  16. ^ "Dyke v. Taylor Implement Mfg. Co. 391 US 216, 88 S. Ct. 1472, 20 L. Ed. 2d 538 (1968)". Google Scholar. Google. Retrieved 11 September 2017.
  17. ^ "Coolidge v. New Hampshire, 403 US 443, 91 S. Ct. 2022, 29 L. Ed. 2d 564 (1971)". Google Scholar. Google. Retrieved 11 September 2017.
  18. ^ "Almeida-Sanchez v. United States, 413 US 266, 93 S. Ct. 2535, 37 L. Ed. 2d 596 (1973)". Google Scholar. Google. Retrieved 11 September 2017.
  19. ^ "Cardwell v. Lewis 417 US 583, 94 S. Ct. 2464, 41 L. Ed. 2d 325 (1974)". Google Scholar. Google. Retrieved 11 September 2017.
  20. ^ "Texas v. White, 423 US 67, 96 S. Ct. 304, 46 L. Ed. 2d 209 (1975)". Google Scholar. Google. Retrieved 11 September 2017.
  21. ^ "Arkansas v. Sanders, 442 US 753, 99 S. Ct. 2586, 61 L. Ed. 2d 235 (1979)". Google Scholar. Google. Retrieved 11 September 2017.
  22. ^ "United States v. Chadwick, 433 US 1, 97 S. Ct. 2476, 53 L. Ed. 2d 538 (1977)". Google Scholar. Google. Retrieved 11 September 2017.
  23. ^ "Colorado v. Bannister, 449 US 1, 101 S. Ct. 42, 66 L. Ed. 2d 1 (1980)". Google Scholar. Google. Retrieved 11 September 2017.
  24. ^ "United States v. Ross, 456 US 798, 102 S. Ct. 2157, 72 L. Ed. 2d 572 (1982)". Google Scholar. Google. Retrieved 11 September 2017.
  25. ^ "California v. Acevedo, 500 US 565, 111 S. Ct. 1982, 114 L. Ed. 2d 619 (1991)". Google Scholar. Google. Retrieved 11 September 2017.
  26. ^ "Wyoming v. Houghton, 526 US 295, 119 S. Ct. 1297, 143 L. Ed. 2d 408 (1999)". Google Scholar. Google. Retrieved 11 September 2017.
  27. ^ "Michigan v. Thomas 458 US 259, 102 S. Ct. 3079, 73 L. Ed. 2d 750 (1982)". Google Scholar. Google. Retrieved 11 September 2017.
  28. ^ "United States v. Johns, 469 US 478, 105 S. Ct. 881, 83 L. Ed. 2d 890 (1985)". Google Scholar. Google. Retrieved 11 September 2017.
  29. ^ "Maryland v. Dyson, 527 US 465, 119 S. Ct. 2013, 144 L. Ed. 2d 442 (1999)". Google Scholar. Google. Retrieved 11 September 2017.
2017 term United States Supreme Court opinions of Samuel Alito

== References ==

99 Problems

"99 Problems" is the third single released by American rapper Jay-Z in 2004 from The Black Album. The chorus hook "I got 99 problems, but a bitch ain't one" is taken from the Ice-T single "99 Problems" from the album Home Invasion (1993). The hook was coined during a conversation between Ice-T & Brother Marquis of Miami-based 2 Live Crew. Marquis later used the phrase in the 1996 2 Live Crew song "Table Dance".

In the song, Jay-Z tells a story about dealing with rap critics, racial profiling from a police officer who wants to search his car, and an aggressor. The song reached number 30 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Byrd v. United States

Byrd v. United States, 584 U.S. ___ (2018), was a United States Supreme Court case in which the Court held drivers of rental cars have rights protecting them from unconstitutional searches by police, even if they are not listed on the rental agreement.

Collins v. Virginia

Collins v. Virginia, No. 16-1027, 584 U.S. ___ (2018), was a case before the Supreme Court of the United States involving search and seizure. At issue was whether the Fourth Amendment's automobile exception permits a police officer, uninvited and without a warrant, to enter private property, approach a house, and search a vehicle parked a few feet from the house otherwise visible from off the property. In an 8–1 judgement, the Supreme Court ruled that the automobile exception does not apply to vehicles parked within the home or curtilage of a private homeowner.


In common law, the curtilage of a house or dwelling is the land immediately surrounding it, including any closely associated buildings and structures, but excluding any associated "open fields beyond", and also excluding any closely associated buildings, structures, or divisions that contain the separate intimate activities of their own respective occupants with those occupying residents being persons other than those residents of the house or dwelling of which the building is associated. It delineates the boundary within which a home owner can have a reasonable expectation of privacy and where "intimate home activities" take place. It is an important legal concept in certain jurisdictions for the understanding of search and seizure, conveyancing of real property, burglary, trespass, and land use planning.

In urban properties, the location of the curtilage may be evident from the position of fences, wall and similar; within larger properties it may be a matter of some legal debate as to where the private area ends and the "open fields" start.

Florida v. Thomas

Florida v. Thomas, 532 U.S. 774 (2001), was a United States Supreme Court case decided in 2001. The case brought to the court concerned the extent of the Court's earlier decision in New York v. Belton, concerning whether a person was in custody, a determination central to allowing evidence seized in an automobile search to be presented in trial. However, the Court unanimously dismissed the case because the decision of the Florida state courts was not "final".

Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution

The Fourth Amendment (Amendment IV) to the United States Constitution is part of the Bill of Rights. It prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures. In addition, it sets requirements for issuing warrants: warrants must be issued by a judge or magistrate, justified by probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and must particularly describe the place to be searched and the persons or things to be seized.

Fourth Amendment case law deals with three main issues: what government activities are "searches" and "seizures", what constitutes probable cause to conduct searches and seizures, and how violations of Fourth Amendment rights should be addressed. Early court decisions limited the amendment's scope to physical intrusion of property or persons, but with Katz v. United States (1967), the Supreme Court held that its protections extend to intrusions on the privacy of individuals as well as to physical locations. A warrant is needed for most search and seizure activities, but the Court has carved out a series of exceptions for consent searches, motor vehicle searches, evidence in plain view, exigent circumstances, border searches, and other situations.

The exclusionary rule is one way the amendment is enforced. Established in Weeks v. United States (1914), this rule holds that evidence obtained as a result of a Fourth Amendment violation is generally inadmissible at criminal trials. Evidence discovered as a later result of an illegal search may also be inadmissible as "fruit of the poisonous tree", unless it inevitably would have been discovered by legal means.

The Fourth Amendment was adopted in response to the abuse of the writ of assistance, a type of general search warrant issued by the British government, and a major source of tension in pre-Revolutionary America. The Fourth Amendment was introduced in Congress in 1789 by James Madison, along with the other amendments in the Bill of Rights, in response to Anti-Federalist objections to the new Constitution. Congress submitted the amendment to the states on September 28, 1789. By December 15, 1791, the necessary three-fourths of the states had ratified it. On March 1, 1792, Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson announced that it was officially part of the Constitution.

Because the Bill of Rights did not initially apply to state or local governments, and federal criminal investigations were less common in the first century of the nation's history, there is little significant case law for the Fourth Amendment before the 20th century. The amendment was held to apply to state and local governments in Mapp v. Ohio (1961) via the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Index of law articles

This collection of lists of law topics collects the names of topics related to law. Everything related to law, even quite remotely, should be included on the alphabetical list, and on the appropriate topic lists. All links on topical lists should also appear in the main alphabetical listing. The process of creating lists is ongoing – these lists are neither complete nor up-to-date – if you see an article that should be listed but is not (or one that shouldn't be listed as legal but is), please update the lists accordingly. You may also want to include Wikiproject Law talk page banners on the relevant pages.

Pennsylvania v. Mimms

Pennsylvania v. Mimms, 434 U.S. 106 (1977), is a United States Supreme Court criminal law decision holding that a police officer ordering a person out of a car following a traffic stop and conducting a pat-down to check for weapons did not violate the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

Search warrant

A search warrant is a court order that a magistrate or judge issues to authorize law enforcement officers to conduct a search of a person, location, or vehicle for evidence of a crime and to confiscate any evidence they find. In most countries, a search warrant cannot be issued in aid of civil process.

Jurisdictions that respect the rule of law and a right to privacy constrain police powers, and typically require search warrants or an equivalent procedure for searches police conducted in the course of a criminal investigation. The laws usually make an exception for hot pursuit: a police officer following a criminal who has fled the scene of a crime has the right to enter a property where the criminal has sought shelter. The necessity for a search warrant and its abilities vary from country to country. In certain authoritarian nations, police officers may be allowed to search individuals and property without having to obtain court permission or provide justification for their actions.

Taft Court

The Taft Court refers to the Supreme Court of the United States from 1921 to 1930, when William Howard Taft served as Chief Justice of the United States. Taft succeeded Edward Douglass White as Chief Justice after the latter's death, and Taft served as Chief Justice until his resignation, at which point Charles Evans Hughes was nominated and confirmed as Taft's replacement. Taft was also the nation's 27th president (1909–13); he is the only person to serve as both President of the United States and Chief Justice.

The Taft Court continued the Lochner era and largely reflected the conservatism of the 1920s. The Taft Court is also notable for being the first court able to exert some control over its own docket, as the Judiciary Act of 1925 instituted the requirement that almost all cases receive a writ of certiorari from four justices before appearing before the Supreme Court.

Taylor v. City of Saginaw

In Taylor v. City of Saginaw, et al., No. 17-2126 (6th Cir. 2019), the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit held that the practice of “chalking” in which parking enforcement officers apply chalk to mark the tires of parked vehicles in order to track the duration of time for which those vehicles have been parked, constitutes a search under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. The court also held that two exceptions to the search warrant requirement—the community caretaker exception and the motor vehicle exception offered by the government—do not apply to the practice of chalking tires. Taylor v. City of Saginaw is the first case in which chalking was alleged to violate the Fourth Amendment.

Traffic stop

A traffic stop, commonly called being pulled over, is a temporary detention of a driver of a vehicle by police to investigate a possible crime or minor violation of law.

Criminal procedure (investigation)
Criminal investigation
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Charges and pleas
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