South Dakota v. Opperman
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]