Existing law authorizes a peace officer to order the removal and storage of a vehicle under various circumstances including when the driver is incapacitated or has been arrested, the vehicle is unregistered, reported stolen, or has been used in a crime, or the vehicle is parked in a manner obstructing traffic or blocking access to a fire hydrant.
Judicial precedent deems the warrantless removal of a vehicle a seizure subject to the protections of the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States that is permissible only pursuant to a recognized exception to the warrant requirement. Case law permits removal of a vehicle by a peace officer in furtherance of an officer’s criminal investigation function, such as removing a vehicle used in a crime for the collection or preservation of evidence, or pursuant to an officer’s community
caretaking function, such as removing a vehicle to safeguard the vehicle’s contents, to ensure the safe flow of traffic, or to remove an illegally parked vehicle or a public nuisance. Case law has held that those statutory authorities that permit the removal of a vehicle when the driver is arrested are based on community caretaking and therefore may only reasonably be relied upon when the removal is reasonably necessary for a community caretaking reason such as safeguarding the vehicle or ensuring the flow of traffic.
This bill would clarify that the removal of a vehicle as authorized by California statute is also required to be constitutionally reasonable based on the specific situation.