of the search (the 19" television set) inside of the hubcaps. Suppose, on the other hand, you have
probable cause to believe that the vehicle is being used to transport drugs. Since the object of the
search is different, you may now look in different places. More specifically, you may look in any areas
where you reasonably may expect to find the drugs. Obviously, this will allow you to look in much
smaller areas than would be the situation if you were looking for a large television set.
When performing this search, then, act the same as you would with any probable cause search.
Always think: What are you looking for? In other words, what do you have probable cause to believe is
in the car? Then, you may look in those areas where you reasonably may expect to find what you are
looking for. Just as you would not expect to find the proverbial "elephant in a breadbox," you would
also not expect to find a stolen M16 rifle in an ashtray.
a. General. An inventory is not defined as a "search." It frequently results in the discovery of
evidence of a crime (stolen property) or contraband (drugs). It is, therefore, important that you
understand the rules governing this sort of activity. If the inventory is valid and properly conducted,
evidence found during it will be admissible at a court-martial. If it is improperly conducted, it will result
in unlawfully seized evidence, and the evidence will not be admissible in court.
MRE 313(c) states that the "primary purpose" of an inventory "is administrative in nature...An
examination made for the primary purpose of obtaining evidence for use in a trial by court-martial or
other disciplinary proceeding is not an inventory." An inventory must "have been legitimately based,
properly conducted, and not have been used as a pretext for an illegal search." It may be justified "by
the need for safeguarding the property while it is in the government's custody, for protecting the
government against claims or disputes arising from the loss or theft of the property, and for protecting
government personnel against the potential hazards which might result should the government
unknowingly come into possession of dangerous substances." U.S. v. Hines, 5 MJ 916 (ACMR, 1978).
In the Hines case, the court explained that an inventory may be based on a regulation that
specifically authorizes the procedure, or upon some other legitimate government purpose: "Even in the
absence of statute, regulation, or a standard procedure, government officials may conduct reasonable
inventories of such property in order to properly determine administrative accountability, to safeguard
the government against loss of its property, or to fix pecuniary liability on those responsible for any loss
or misuse." It is not "unreasonable" simply because it is not specifically required by a regulation. Thus,
when there was a change of billeting officers, an inventory done "for the purpose of verifying the
records of accountability for government property" being used in the bachelor officers' quarters (BOQ)
was considered to be reasonable. The inventory involved government property in the various rooms.