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California v. Carney


Officers received information that the defendant was exchanging marijuana for sex in a motor home parked in a lot in downtown San Diego. Offices stopped a youth, who had entered and then left the motor home. The youth told the officers he had received marijuana in return for allowing the defendant sexual contact. The youth, at the officer’s request, went back to the motor home, knocked on the door, and the defendant stepped out. The officer went inside and observed marijuana. A subsequent search of the motor home revealed additional marijuana. The motor home was the defendant’s residence.


Whether a motor home used as a residence is a motor vehicle for purposes of the motor vehicle exception?


Yes. A motor home is treated as a vehicle, rather than a dwelling, if it is immediately mobile.


When a vehicle is being used on highways or is capable of that use and is found stationary in a place not regularly used for residential purposes, two justifications for the vehicle exception to the warrant requirement came into play. First, that the vehicle is readily mobile. Second, there is a reduced expectation of privacy stemming from the pervasive regulation of vehicles. Under these circumstances, the overriding societal interests in effective law enforcement justify an immediate search before the vehicle and its occupants become mobile.

In this case, the defendant’s vehicle possessed many attributes of a home. However, the vehicle falls clearly within the scope of the automobile exception since the defendant’s motor home was readily mobile. While the vehicle is capable of functioning as a home, to distinguish between a motor home and a typical car would require that the mobile conveyance exception be applied depending upon the size of the vehicle and the quality of its appointments. The Court was not willing to make this distinction. Therefore, under the mobile conveyance exception to the warrant requirement, the search of the defendant’s motor home was reasonable.


471 U.S. 386, 105 S. Ct. 2066 (1985)

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