Recently, we conducted a suppression hearing in New York County (Manhattan) Criminal Court, in a DWI case where the Court suppressed evidence that was found pursuant to an inventory search. Courts are increasingly scrutinizing inventory searches. In July, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a New York forgery case discussing whether the police officers’ search of the defendant’s vehicle was legal. Ultimately, the court concluded that the search was not a valid inventory search, and reversed the defendant’s conviction.
Under New York criminal law, most searches must be supported by a warrant. However, there are exceptions to this general rule. One exception is the inventory search. An inventory search is when a police officer searches a person’s car after conducting a valid arrest. The justification for the inventory-search exception is that inventory searches serve three purposes:
- They protect the owner’s belongings;