Who can give permission to search an impounded car?

UPDATED: Jun 16, 2011

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Who can give permission to search an impounded car?

I rented a car and my boyfriend took it out of state, let his friend use it to go to the store, and it got impounded. He didn’t know that his friend didn’t have a license. I’m still in the state that I rented the car from and I signed for. However, my boyfriend was on the registry and so it was OK for him to drive it. Does that mean the car’s going to be searched? Who is legally able to allow a search – me, my boyfriend, or the rental company? Also, can my boyfriend pick it up from the impound? If not, how do I get it back?

Asked on June 16, 2011 under Criminal Law, Colorado


M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

The car could have bee searched at the scene; this is known as a search "ncident to an arrest". However, a car can be searched once it reached the police impound No permission is required. Such a search can be made for a number of reasons: 

  • A search may be considered necessary for an officer's safety. For example if an officer smells what could be a gasoline leak. There would then be probable cause to conduct a genral search.

  • A search may be made do that police get an accurate record of what's in the car in the event that there is a later claim of missing items. Additionally It's also important note any damages that are present on the car in order to evidence that damage did not happen in the lot.

  • A car can be thoroughly searched for evidence. If this search is not incident to an arrest then a warrant will be issued to the owner of the vehicle.

Note:  The scope of such searches are also regulated by state/local laws regarding the extent ands scope of the search.

As to getting your car back, you'll need to contact the impound lot to get the specifics on obtaining a release for the car.

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 AttorneyPages.com 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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