New Jersey Law Regarding Impoundment of Vehicles and Inventory Searches

The New Jersey view on impounding vehicles and inventory searches concerns the procedures surrounding the impoundment of a motor vehicle. New Jersey police must give the driver of the car a reasonable opportunity to make arrangements for the care of the vehicle before the police may impound it and conduct an inventory search. This rule applies regardless of whether the driver is to be taken into custody for a violation of law or the driver simply receives a ticket for the violation. Unless the driver gives his or her voluntary consent to the impoundment, the police must first give him or her an opportunity to make arrangements for the care of the vehicle.

Typically, if the driver is stopped by the police and is unable to continue his operation (because he is driving on a suspended license or because there is a bench warrant out for his arrest) the police must give the driver an opportunity to make arrangements for the care of the vehicle. The driver can arrange for a substitute driver to take the vehicle and the police may permit the operator to safely and legally park the vehicle rather than having it impounded.

Certain statutes provide police with authority to impound motor vehicles. For example, N.J.S.A. 39:3-4 authorizes police officers to remove any unregistered vehicle from a public highway. Also, police may remove from the roadway any disabled or unattended vehicle that blocks traffic. This statutory authority comes from N.J.S.A. 39:4-136. As long as the proper procedures are followed for a valid impoundment and inventory search, this is a valid exception to the warrant requirement.

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