South Dakota v. Opperman

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South Dakota v. Opperman

South Dakota v. Opperman, 428 U.S. 364 (1976), elaborated on the community caretaking doctrine. Under the Fourth Amendment, "unreasonable" searches and seizures are forbidden. In addition to their law enforcement duties, the police must engage in what the Court has termed a community caretaking role, including such duties as removing obstructions from roadways in order to ensure the free flow of traffic. When the police act in this role, they may inventory cars they have seized without "unreasonably" searching those cars. Excerpted from South Dakota v. Opperman on Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Court Documents
Concurring Opinion
Dissenting Opinions

428 U.S. 364
South Dakota v. Opperman
No. 75-76 Argued: March 29, 1976 --- Decided: July 6, 1976

After respondent's car had been impounded for multiple parking violations the police, following standard procedures, inventoried the contents of the car. In doing so, they discovered marihuana in the glove compartment, for the possession of which respondent was subsequently arrested. His motion to suppress the evidence yielded by the warrantless inventory search was denied, and respondent was thereafter convicted. The State Supreme Court reversed, concluding that the evidence had been obtained in violation of the Fourth Amendment as made applicable to the States by the Fourteenth.

Held: The police procedures followed in this case did not involve an "unreasonable" search in violation of the Fourth Amendment. The expectation of privacy in one's automobile is significantly less than that relating to one's home or office, Cardwell v. Lewis, 417 U.S. 583, 590. When vehicles are impounded, police routinely follow caretaking procedures by securing and inventorying the cars' contents. These procedures have been widely sustained as reasonable under the Fourth Amendment. This standard practice was followed here, and there is no suggestion of any investigatory motive on the part of the police. Pp. 367-376.

89 S.D. ___ , 228 N.W.2d 152, reversed and remanded.

BURGER, C.J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BLACKMUN, POWELL, REHNQUIST, and STEVENS, JJ., joined. POWELL, J., filed a concurring opinion, post, p. 376. WHITE, J., filed a dissenting statement, post, p. 396. MARSHALL, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which BRENNAN and STEWART, JJ., joined, post, p. 384. [p365]