Pursuant to an investigation of a suspected drug smuggling operation, officers observed two pickup trucks as they traveled to a remote, private landing strip, and the arrival and departure of two small airplanes. The officers smelled the odor of marijuana as they approached the trucks and observed packages wrapped in dark green plastic and sealed with tape, a common method of packaging marijuana. The officers arrested the defendant, took the pickup trucks to their headquarters, and secured the vehicles. Three days later, without obtaining a search warrant, the agents opened some of the packages and took samples that proved to be marijuana.
Whether a warrantless search of the packages three days after they were removed from vehicles is justified under the mobile conveyance exception to the warrant requirement?
Yes. The Supreme Court held that if the officers have probable cause to look for evidence in a mobile conveyance, they do not need to obtain a warrant.
The warrantless search of the packages was reasonable even though it occurred three days after the packages were seized. The Ross case established that the officers could have searched the packages when they were first discovered in the trucks at the airstrip. Moreover, there is no requirement that a Carroll search of a vehicle occur contemporaneously with its lawful seizure.
469 U.S. 478, 105 S. Ct. 881 (1985)