Muni-mail – When Cops Tow Car, Exigency Disappears – State v. Minitee
[08/16/10 – 9:00 pm] This morning, the Appellate Division ruled that when police officials take a motor vehicle into custody as evidence and hold it in their control, the exigent circumstances that initially justify the vehicle’s seizure do not also justify a warrantless search. Rather, in the absence of some other exception to the warrant requirement (such as consent), the police should seek a search warrant from the Superior Court. The case standing for this proposition, captioned State v. Minitee, involved a police seizure of a vehicle used in the commission of a crime. The police impounded the vehicle and removed back to the police station where it was searched without the authority of a warrant. Significant criminal evidence was located within the vehicle. However, the Appellate Division ruled that once the impounded vehicle was safely in police custody, any exigency tending to make it impractical to obtain a search warrant had vanished. Simply put, following the impoundment, the police should have sought a search warrant.
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