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A Better Partnership
March 07, 2012

COA Opinion: Police officer that arrested defendant for impaired driving was entitled to search the vehicle for the soure of the impairment

The Court of Appeals added another decision to the long litany of cases addressing the search of a vehicle incident to arrest by publishing its January 2012 decision in People v. Tavernier. In that case, the Court focused on the rule that allows the warrantless search of a vehicle after an arrest where it is reasonable to believe the vehicle contains evidence of the offense of the arrest. The defendant had been stopped by police upon information that he was driving erractically, and proceeded to run over a curb during the traffic stop. In talking with the defendant and conducting field sobriety tests, the officer reported the defendant had claimed to have had recent surgery, appeared to be confused and was unable to complete the assigned tasks. Defendant was placed under arrest and put into the police car. The officer then searched the vehicle for a pain medication or narcotic that would explain the erratic driving. Under the totaility of the circumstances, the Court found that it was reasonable to conclude that there was reason to believe that the vehicle contained evidence of impaired driving and that the search, therefore, was appropriate.

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