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Pennsylvania adopts the Federal standard for the warrantless search of automobiles

A new Pennsylvania Supreme Court case has ruled on the proper standard to analyze warrantless searches of an automobile.  In this case, the PA Supreme Court has held that the proper standard is the standard the federal courts apply: namely if a police officer has probable cause to believe that an automobile may contain contraband, the probable cause plus the fact that an automobile is readily mobile, creates an exception to the warrant requirement.

"After consideration of relevant federal and state law, we now hold that with respect to a warrantless search of a motor vehicle that is supported by probable cause, Article I, Section 8 of the Pennsylvania Constitution affords no greater protection than the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution.  Accordingly, we adopt the federal automobile exception to the warrant requirement, which allows police officers to search a motor vehicle when there is probable cause to do so and does not require any exigency beyond the inherent mobility of a motor vehicle."

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