Officers arrested the defendant and seized his car for a narcotics violation in which the car was used. A state law directed any officer making an arrest for a narcotics violation to seize and deliver any vehicle used to store, conceal, transport, sell, or facilitate the possession of narcotics. “Such vehicle to be held as evidence until a forfeiture has been declared or a release order issued.” A search of the automobile a week later revealed evidence used in trial against the defendant.
Whether the warrantless search of the defendant’s automobile, seized by the authority of a forfeiture statute, made a week after his arrest, and not incidental thereto, was reasonable by Fourth Amendment standards?
Yes. Law enforcement officers are permitted to search a car that they are going to retain for a significant period of time.
Evidence showed that the car had been used to carry on his narcotics possession and transportation activities. A state statute required police in such circumstances to seize the vehicle and hold it as evidence until forfeiture was declared or a release ordered. A warrantless search of an arrested person’s automobile, made a week after his arrest and not incident to that arrest, is reasonable where the vehicle is seized for forfeiture.
386 U.S. 58, 87 S. Ct. 788 (1967)