Section 22651 california vehicle code - Interpretation

In California, impoundment of a vehicle is controlled by section 22651, which provides in pertinent part: "Any peace officer, . . . who is engaged in directing traffic or enforcing parking laws and regulations, of a city, county, or jurisdiction of a state agency in which a vehicle is located, may remove a vehicle located within the territorial limits in which the officer or employee may act, under any of the following circumstances: "(p) When the peace officer issues the driver of a vehicle a notice to appear for a violation of Section 12500, . . . and the vehicle has not been impounded pursuant to Section 22655.5. . . ." Subdivision (p), before amendment in 1994, contained a provision that in lieu of impounding the vehicle, it could be released to a passenger who possessed a valid driver's license. Officers acting pursuant to this section in impounding vehicles may be considered to have acted pursuant to standardized procedures as required by Bertine. ( People v. Benites, supra, 9 Cal.App.4th at pp. 327-328; People v. Burch (1986) 188 Cal. App. 3d 172, 176, 232 Cal. Rptr. 502.) The constitutionally valid procedures to impound a vehicle and conduct an inventory search have been developed in a series of cases from the state and federal courts. In South Dakota v. Opperman, supra, 428 U.S. 364, an automobile was impounded by the police for overtime parking in a restricted area. The car was taken to the city impound lot. a policeman observed a watch on the dashboard and other items of personal property in plain view from the outside of the vehicle. The officer ordered the car to be unlocked and the contents of the car inventoried pursuant to police regulations. ( Id. at p. 380, fn. 6.) Opperman held the inventory search to be reasonable under the Fourth Amendment because the inventory practice by the police department to safeguard the vehicle's contents was standard police procedure generally followed throughout the country. ( Id. at p. 376.) In light of the strong governmental interest to prevent claims of stolen property, and the diminished expectation of privacy in a vehicle, the court upheld the inventory search and noted other cases which accorded deference to police caretaking procedures designed to secure and protect vehicles and their contents within police custody. (Ibid.)