Oregon Supreme Court Removes Blanket Automobile Search Exemption

Earlier this month, the Oregon Supreme Court put an end to the 38-year precedent from State of Oregon v Roderick Darnell Brown that allowed police searches of automobiles to be exempt from a requirement for a warrant. In State of Oregon v Charles Steven McCarthy, the Court found that the police could have made use of technology to seek a warrant in real-time, that the 1986 Brown decision was not intended to be a permanent blanket exemption.

If police in the Beaver State find probable cause to search a vehicle, they will be first required to call in a request from a judge for a warrant. The McCarthy decision does allow for exigent circumstances to exempt the automobile from a required warrant, but by requiring the facts to show an exigency, vehicles will no longer possess a blanket exemption. As Justice Rebecca Duncan‘s majority opinion reads: “We hold that, when the state seeks to justify a warrantless seizure or search of a vehicle based on exigent circumstances, the state must prove that exigent circumstances actually existed at the time of the seizure or search.”

For more details on this case, read the fine reporting of the Oregon Capital Insider here and the Institute of Justice’s podcast on this case here.

Eric Shierman lives in Salem and is the author of We were winning when I was there.