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Name: People v. Williams
Case #: B188129
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 2 DCA
Division: 8
Opinion Date: 12/13/2006

Statutory authority to impound a vehicle does not, in and of itself, constitutionally justify the impound and subsequent inventory search. The impound must also be reasonable under the circumstances and may be justified if done under the community caretaking function of the police. Here, after being stopped for a seatbelt violation, appellant, a licensed driver, legally parked the registered vehicle in front of his residence. He was arrested on an outstanding warrant and the vehicle was impounded and searched and a loaded gun was found in the back seat. Appellant contested the search. At the suppression hearing, the prosecution relied only on Vehicle Code section 22651, which authorizes law enforcement officers to impound a vehicle when they make a custodial arrest of a person driving or in control of a vehicle, to justify the impound and inventory search. There was no evidence that the vehicle jeopardized the public safety and efficient movement of vehicular traffic such that the impound was justified under the community caretaking function of the police. Reliance on Vehicle Code section 22651, alone, failed to establish the requisite constitutional reasonableness of the impound.