f. The automobile exception. Under MRE 315(g)(3), an "operable vehicle" may be searched
without a warrant/authorization. As is the case with the other exigencies, this one also requires
probable cause for the search. Remember, the basis for this action is PC & EC = AA. Without both
probable cause and the exigency/emergency, there is no authority to act.
The Supreme Court has held that "searches of cars that are constantly movable may make the
search of a car without a warrant a reasonable one although the result might be the opposite in a
search of a home." Part of the reason for this is the extensive regulation to which motor vehicles are
subjected. An automobile is treated differently than a person's home. Part of this is also due to "the
vagrant and mobile nature" of the automobile; i.e., its "ambulatory character" Cady v. Dombrowski, 37
L.Ed.2d 706 (1973).
The inherent mobility factor "often makes obtaining a judicial warrant impracticable." Still, the
Supreme Court has also upheld such warrantless searches of automobiles "in cases in which the
possibilities of the vehicles being removed or evidence in it destroyed were remote, if not nonexistent."
The Supreme Court has explained that the answer also lies "in the diminished expectation of privacy
which surrounds the automobile. One has a lesser expectation of privacy in a motor vehicle." U.S. v.
Chadwick, 53 L.Ed.2d 538 (1977). There is a difference "between a search of a store, dwelling house
or other structure in respect of which a proper official warrant readily may be obtained, and a search of
a ship, motor boat, wagon, or automobile for contraband goods, where it is not practicable to secure a
warrant because the vehicle can be quickly moved out of the locality or jurisdiction in which the warrant
must be sought." Carroll v. U.S., 69 L. Ed. 543 (1925).
In California v. Carney, 85 L.Ed.2d 406 (1985), a Drug Enforcement Administration agent received
information that a motor home was being used in connection with a drug transaction. The motor home
was parked in a parking lot in downtown San Diego, California. The investigator put it under
surveillance and ultimately searched it. The Supreme Court noted that there was, as has been
explained, a lesser expectation of privacy in an automobile, as opposed to a home. The factor of ready
mobility is also extremely important. This mobility "creates circumstances of such exigency that, as a
practical necessity, rigorous enforcement of the warrant requirement is impossible." The Court
concluded: "When a vehicle is being used on the highways, or if it is readily capable of such use and is
found stationary in a place not regularly used for residential purposes--temporary or otherwise--the two
justifications for the vehicle exception come into play. First, the vehicle is obviously readily mobile by
the turn of a switch key, if not actually moving. Second, there is a reduced expectation of privacy
stemming from its use as a licensed motor vehicle subject to a range of police regulation inapplicable to
a fixed dwelling." Here, then, the motor home was"readily mobile. Absent the prompt search and
seizure, it could readily have been moved beyond the reach of the police." Also, based on its location,
"an objective observer would conclude that it was being used not as a residence, but as a vehicle." In
other words, the exception "has historically turned on the ready mobility of the vehicle, and on the
presence of the vehicle in a setting that objectively indicates that the vehicle is being used for