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No. 2—09—0833

The leading case of South Dakota v. Opperman, 428 U.S. 364 (1976), explains why police

impoundments and inventory searches are treated as distinctive processes, which are warranted in

different but frequently overlapping circumstances. Impoundments may be in furtherance of “public

safety” or “community caretaking functions,” such as removing “disabled or damaged vehicles” and

“automobiles which violate parking ordinances and which thereby jeopardize both the public safety

and the ef icient movement of vehicular traffic.” Opperman, 428 U.S. at 368-69. An impoundment

must either be supported by probable cause or be consistent with the police role as “caretaker” of the

streets and completely unrelated to an ongoing criminal investigation. Opperman, 428 U.S. at 370


When a vehicle is lawfully impounded, an inventory search is a judicially created exception

to the warrant requirement of the fourth amendment. Gipson, 203 Ill. 2d at 304 (citing People v.

Hundley, 156 Ill. 2d 135, 138 (1993)). The Supreme Court has identi ied three objectives that are

served by allowing inventory searches: (1) protection of the owner’s property; (2) protection of the

police against claims oflost or stolen property; and (3) protection of the police from potential danger.

Gipson, 203 Ill. 2d at 304 (citing Opperman, 428 U.S. at 369). To be deemed reasonable, the

inventory search must further these objectives, and it will satisfy the fourth amendment as long as the

police procedures are reasonable and administered in good faith. People v. Clark, 394 Ill. App. 3d

344, 348 (2009). The procedures need not be in writing if the police act according to standardized

department procedures for conducting inventory searches. Gipson, 203 Ill. 2d at 306, 309; Clark,

394 Ill. App. 3d at 348.

Three criteria must be met for a valid warrantless inventory search of a vehicle: (1) the

original impoundment of the vehicle must be lawful; (2) the purpose of the inventory search must be

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