A Deputy Sheriff received a tip from a reliable informant that the defendant was about to transport cocaine from New York. The informant stated that the defendant had rented a red Toyota Corolla and provided the license plate number for the transportation. The deputy verified that the defendant, a known drug dealer, rented such a vehicle. Several hours later, law enforcement officers stopped this vehicle and searched it. They found cocaine in the trunk. The Maryland appellate court found the officers had probable cause but suppressed the evidence because the officers had time to secure a search warrant but failed to do so.
Whether officers must obtain a search warrant for a mobile conveyance, after developing probable cause, if they have the time to secure one?
No. Officers are not required to obtain a search warrant for a mobile conveyance even if they have time to secure one.
Generally, the Court requires a search warrant to conduct a search under the Fourth Amendment. However, the Supreme Court has offered a variety of exceptions to the warrant requirement. One of these exceptions is the mobile conveyance, or automobile, exception. The Supreme Court originally created the automobile exception to the warrant requirement because of the exigency caused by their mobility. In an earlier line of cases, the Supreme Court held that if the government had time to secure a warrant, it must do so. However, in 1982 (United States v. Ross) the Supreme Court discarded this principle. Under this principle of law, the government may conduct a search of an automobile if it has probable cause and the item searched is immediately mobile.
527 U.S.465, 119 S. Ct. 2013 (1999)