U.S. Supreme Court
Michigan v. Thomas, 458 U.S. 259 (1982)
Michigan v. Thomas
Decided June 28, 1982
458 U.S. 259
After the police had stopped respondent's automobile for a traffic violation, respondent, who was riding as a passenger, was arrested for possession of open intoxicants, and the driver was issued a citation for not having a driver's license. An inventory search of the car was made before it was towed, disclosing marihuana in the unlocked glove compartment and, upon a more thorough search, a loaded revolver in an air vent under the dashboard. Respondent was convicted in a Michigan state court for possession of a concealed weapon. The Michigan Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the warrantless search of respondent's automobile violated the Fourth Amendment.
Held: There was no violation of respondent's Fourth Amendment rights by the warrantless search. When police officers have probable cause to believe there is contraband inside an automobile that has been stopped on the road, the officers may conduct a warrantless search of the vehicle, even after it has been impounded and is in police custody. Chambers v. Maroney, 399 U. S. 42; Texas v. White, 423 U. S. 67. Here, once the inventory search of the glove compartment revealed contraband, the warrantless search was properly expanded to include the air vents without any showing of "exigent circumstances."
Certiorari granted; 106 Mich.App. 601, 308 N.W.2d 170, reversed and remanded.