Published on: Monday, May 3, 2021

Colorado man failed to use his turn signal as he parked in a private motel parking lot. Cops approach him, determined car was registered to a previous owner, that the man's driver’s license had been revoked, and he had an outstanding misdemeanor warrant for a failure to appear for a traffic ticket. Cops arrest man on the outstanding warrant, and because they couldn't reach the car’s registered owner by phone, they impounded the car. An inventory search revealed drugs, drug distribution paraphernalia, a gun holster, and ammunition. Man: search of car improper; no reason to tow the car. District court: motion to suppress denied. Search is fine. Tenth Circuit: Search is not fine. The car was legally parked on private property, didn’t impede traffic or otherwise pose a safety hazard, and motel owner didn’t object to its presence. Community caretaker exception does not apply. Reversed.

The case is United States v. Hunter, 19-01432 (10th Cir. May 3, 2021).