South Dakota v. Opperman

LOCATION:Vermillion Police Station

DOCKET NO.: 75-76
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1975-1981)
LOWER COURT: South Dakota Supreme Court

CITATION: 428 US 364 (1976)
ARGUED: Mar 29, 1976
DECIDED: Jul 06, 1976

Robert C. Ulrich
William J. Janklow –

Facts of the case

The respondent, Donald Opperman, left his car unattended in a prohibited parking space in violation of local ordinances in Vermillion, South Dakota. He received two parking tickets from local police officers, and as a result, his vehicle was subsequently inspected and impounded. At the impound lot, a police officer observed personal items in the dashboard of the car and unlocked the door to inventory the items using standard procedures. In the unlocked glove compartment, the officer found marijuana in a plastic bag. Opperman was arrested later that day and charged with possession of marijuana. He was convicted but the Supreme Court of South Dakota reversed on appeal and concluded the search was in violation of the Fourth Amendment.


Does the Fourth Amendment’s Warrant Clause prohibit police from inventorying a vehicle that is lawfully impounded for traffic violations, without first obtaining a warrant?

Media for South Dakota v. Opperman

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument – March 29, 1976 in South Dakota v. Opperman

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement – July 06, 1976 in South Dakota v. Opperman

Warren E. Burger:

I have the judgments and opinion to announce in number 75-76, South Dakota against Opperman and for reasons stated in an opinion filed with the clerk this morning, the judgment of the Supreme Court on South Dakota is reversed and the case is remanded for further proceedings not in consistent with the opinion of this Court.

Mr. Justice Paul concurring in the opinion, filed a concurring, separate concurring opinion.

Mr. Justice White filed a dissenting statement.

Mr. Justice Marshall joined by Mr. Justice Brennan and Mr. Justice Stewart, filed a dissenting opinion.