If you have been arrested for a drug crime, then you probably know that your car may be seized by the police. If you were pulled over for any reason—whether you were speeding, driving recklessly, or maybe the police received a call—the police also may want to search the vehicle, especially if they believe you are hiding drugs and/or weapons in the vehicle.
So what happens if your car is seized after you have been pulled over and arrested for drugs?
Once the car is in police custody, law enforcement may conduct a “reasonable” search of the vehicle. Police generally do not need a warrant in this case.
However, when police seize and conduct a search of a vehicle, they must do so according to “standardized criteria” of the police department. The Florida Supreme Court has held that the standardized procedures provide parameters for police when conducting the inventory search.
So this means that each police department in the state is required to follow set guidelines and protocol for searching vehicles. These boundaries limit police discretion and ensure that authorities do not abuse this exception to the warrant requirement.
More recent case law reiterates that the police may conduct a search of an impounded vehicle when the department has a written an inventory policy and when the department can articulate a specific reason the vehicle needed to be impounded in the first place.
The Search Begins
Therefore, if you are arrested for a drug crime and your vehicle has been seized, then you should expect that the police will probably conduct an inventory search of your car.
If the police search your vehicle in good faith and according to the standards set forth by the department, and they find evidence of a crime, then that evidence may be used against you later in a case.
Typically, after police seize your vehicle, you will be provided with a written notice of seizure and forfeiture. Once you receive that notice, a clock starts on how you respond.
Speak with a Skilled Criminal Defense Attorney
In the State of Florida, you have 15 days to file a written request for an “adversarial preliminary hearing.” This is when you should contact a criminal defense attorney to help you fight back.
Please note, however, if the vehicle is evidence of a crime, then the police may keep the vehicle until after an investigation and trial is completed. Be sure to discuss this with your Criminal Defense attorney.
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