Officers observed the defendant use his car to deliver cocaine. This subjected the car to forfeiture under a state statute that prohibited the use of motor vehicles in the transportation of contraband. Several months later, the officers arrested the defendant at his place of employment for an unrelated crime. His car was parked in the employee parking lot. The officers seized his car, without a warrant, because they believed it was subject to the forfeiture statute.
Whether the officers may make a warrantless seizure of a car subject to forfeiture in a public place?
Yes. The automobile could be seized in a public place because it did not involve any greater intrusion than that authorized by law.
After the defendant used the automobile in violation of the forfeiture statute, the Court considered the automobile contraband. As the contraband was readily movable, the officers were reasonable in their warrantless seizure. This is to be distinguished from a seizure that takes place on private property as entry to make a seizure there constitutes an invasion of privacy. To seize an automobile on private property, officers must obtain a search warrant.