The answer is yes. Based on the BELTON case cited above, the MP may search the passenger compartment of
the automobile but not the trunk. A policeman who has made a lawful custodial arrest of the occupant of an
automobile may, as a contemporaneous incident of that arrest, search the passenger compartment of the
automobile and may examine the contents of any containers found within the passenger compartment. The term
"container" denoting any object capable of holding another object including closed or open glove compartments,
consoles, or other receptacles as well as luggage, boxes, bags, clothing, and the like.
Sometimes, where there is "probable cause" to believe that evidence is in the vehicle, the vehicle may be searched
on a "probable cause plus exigent circumstances theory."
Remember from the definitions section that exigent circumstances refer to conditions of a situation that demand
You should remember, too, that it is possible to impound the vehicle and inventory it. Impounding the vehicle
depends on the nature of the apprehension and the standard procedures of the apprehending agency. If an MP
inventories the contents of the car, the inventory may not be a subterfuge or cover up for a search.
A vehicle must be searched as soon after apprehension as possible for the search to be considered incident to
apprehension. If the circumstances of the apprehension do not permit an immediate search, MP use their
judgement to determine a reasonable time frame. Twenty minutes is the normal time in between apprehension
and subsequent search. If MP have any doubt at all about the length of time that has elapsed, they should obtain a
search authorization before conducting the search.
So far we have discussed searches of vehicles as they apply incident to apprehension. Vehicles and persons
entering and leaving military installations may also be searched.
AR 190-22, AR 380-20, and 50 U.S.C. 797 define the commander's authority to search. Civilian personnel
entering an installation have the right to refuse a search. If they do, however, they can be refused entrance to the
installation. Military personnel entering an installation and all personnel, civilian and military, leaving an
installation may be searched over their objections if such search was authorized by the installation commander.
Entering a building for the purpose of searching for and seizing evidence or contraband carries inherent risks. To
execute this job safely and efficiently, MP must follow specific requirements and procedures.