OCTOBER TERM, 1998
on petition for writ of certiorari to the court of special appeals of maryland
No. 98-1062. Decided June 21, 1999
After receiving a tip from a reliable informant, sheriff's deputies stopped and searched respondent's vehicle and found 23 grams of cocaine in the trunk. The Court of Special Appeals reversed his drug conviction, holding that in order for the automobile exception to the Fourth Amend-ment's warrant requirement to apply, there must not only be probable cause to believe that evidence of a crime is contained in the car, but also a separate finding of exigency precluding the police from obtaining a warrant.
Held: The automobile exception does not require a separate finding of exigency in addition to a finding of probable cause. This Court's established precedent makes clear that in cases where there was probable cause to search a vehicle, a search is not unreasonable if based on facts that would justify issuing a warrant, even though a warrant has not been actually obtained. E. g., United States v. Ross, 456 U. S. 798, 809. Here, the lower court found "abundant probable cause" that the car contained contraband, which alone satisfies the warrant requirement's automobile exception.
Certiorari granted; 122 Md. App. 413, 712 A. 2d 573, reversed.
In this case, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals held that the Fourth Amendment requires police to obtain a search warrant before searching a vehicle which they have probable cause to believe contains illegal drugs. Because this holding rests upon an incorrect interpretation of the automobile exception to the Fourth Amendment's warrant requirement, we grant the petition for certiorari and reverse.
At 11 a.m. on the morning of July 2, 1996, a St. Mary's County (Maryland) Sheriff's Deputy received a tip from a reliable confidential informant that respondent had gone to New York to buy drugs, and would be returning to Maryland in a rented red Toyota, license number DDY 787, later that day with a large quantity of cocaine. The deputy investi-
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