Can the police obtain access to and remove my keys from my vehicle without a search warrant?

UPDATED: Jan 11, 2012

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Can the police obtain access to and remove my keys from my vehicle without a search warrant?

I was at school and when I went to my vehicle to leave (parked illegally in the visiting row) my keys were gone and a business card was affixed to my steering wheel. When I picked it up, it had a note written on it that said, “Zachary, I have your car keys. You left them in the ignition. Contact me at (phone number omitted)”. In my state this as against the law but is it legal for an officer to enter my vehicle and confiscate my keys without my permission or presence?

Asked on January 11, 2012 under General Practice, Ohio


FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

From what you have written about the facts concerning the taking of your car keys, what the police officer did was legal under the laws of your and many states. It is illegal in many states to leave keys in a vehicle's ignition when the car is unattended.

The police officer obviously saw the keys in the ignition in your car while it was unattended by anyone, entered it and took the keys to secure it and prevent anyone from taking it. There was no need for the issuance of a search warrant because there was the possibility of an imminent danger to society that some person not authorized to take your vehicle would do so.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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