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Michigan v. Thomas


The defendant was the front-seat passenger of a lawfully stopped vehicle. The officers noticed a bottle of alcohol between the defendant’s feet and arrested him for being in possession of open intoxicants in a motor vehicle. The driver of the car was cited for not having an operator’s license. A tow truck was summoned and an officer, pursuant to departmental policy, searched the vehicle as it was being impounded. He found marijuana in the glove compartment. Based on this discovery, he continued his search and found a gun in an air vent.


Whether the officer was entitled to search under the mobile conveyance exception after conducting an inventory search?


Yes. The officer was reasonable in conducting a mobile conveyance search even after conducting an inventory search.


It was reasonable for the officers to search the motor vehicle under the inventory policy, as they were responsible for the contents therein. This led to the discovery of marijuana, giving the officers probable cause that other contraband could be found in the car. The Court held that once the officers established probable cause, they were entitled to search despite the fact that the car had previously been searched through the inventory policy. This led to the lawful discovery of the handgun in the air vent. The fact that the car was immobilized for want of an operator was inconsequential.


458 U.S. 259, 102 S. Ct. 3079 (1982)

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