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Cady v. Dombrowski

413 U.S. 433 (1973)

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Cady v. Dombrowski

United States Supreme Court

413 U.S. 433 (1973)

Facts

Chester Dombrowski (defendant), a Chicago police officer, drove drunk and crashed his car on a highway in a small town in Wisconsin. Dombrowski was injured in the accident, and his car was disabled. Police arrested Dombrowski, who was incoherent, for drunk driving. They then took him to the hospital, where he lost consciousness and was admitted to the hospital overnight. The small-town police station did not have an impound lot, so police had Dombrowski’s car towed to a privately owned service station, where it was left without a police guard. Believing that Chicago officers were required to always carry their service revolvers and finding that Dombrowski did not have physical possession of his revolver, police searched his car for the weapon. At trial, police testified that the search was standard procedure for their department and that it was undertaken to protect the public by preventing the weapon from falling into the wrong hands. The search of the vehicle revealed evidence that ultimately led police to the body of a deceased man. Dombrowski was charged with the man’s murder. The trial court admitted evidence stemming from the warrantless search of the car, and Dombrowski was convicted. Dombrowski appealed to the Wisconsin Supreme Court, which affirmed his conviction. Dombrowski filed a habeas corpus petition in federal district court, which denied the petition. The court of appeals reversed the denial. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Rehnquist, J.)

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