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What is an inventory search of my car in Florida?

Most people are familiar with your typical search and seizure scenario - a cop comes to someone's door holding a piece of paper indicating a judge has granted them access to the home to search for some evidence. A search can also occur when a cop finds something unusual in a pat-down or when someone is arrested and the immediate area is searched for evidence.

One spot for potential search and seizure of incriminating evidence that many do not think of is when an "inventory search" is conducted by law enforcement. When someone is arrested for a traffic-related offense or is arrested on some other warrant while driving a vehicle, officers on scene must do something with the car. Most of the time, this means that they will call a tow truck to impound the car. Before they let the wrecker take the car away, by law and for civil liability purposes, they must create an inventory of the contents of the vehicle.

The taking of inventory of the vehicle means they must document what is in the car when it is towed so a person cannot come back and say that a cop stole their money, iPod, or whatever else may be in there. While this may seem reasonable to do, it can have some unintended consequences. The inventory search allows an officer to search around the car, which could result in some narcotics, paraphernalia, weapons, or stolen merchandise to be found without the need to get a warrant. Anything that is found during this search is likely admissible in court and can compound the charges that a person is arrested for in the first place.

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