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Motor Vehicle Searches

Warrantless searches of motor vehicles is by far the most commonly executed search performed by police officers. Although seemingly routine, the interplay between the different warrant exceptions can become confusing and open the door for litigation traps to an unwary officer, which frequently arise due to the amount of arrests that come from such searches.


Particularly relevant now is the move to suppress evidence found in searches that were based on the smell of marijuana alone. This issue is compounded considering the legalization and/or decriminalization of marijuana. Medical marijuana muddies the waters even more. Accordingly, officers should be prepared to articulate additional reasons that justify warrantless searches, if possible, and move away from the traditional automatic search based on the slightest smell of marijuana as was the practice in the past.


CCG's motor vehicle search course provides a complete refresher of the motor vehicle exceptions to the search warrant. Current case law is discussed, along with real world examples, to tie in the sometimes confusing and misapplied concepts. By establishing this understanding, officers develop the necessary foundation to avoid common litigation tactics that often lead to suppression of evidence and dismissed cases. Contact us for more information.


  • History of the Motor Vehicle Exception 

  • The Carroll Doctrine 

  • Plain Smell of Marijuana

  • Arizona v. Gant

  • Consent 

  • Impound and Storage

  • Terry Frisks

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