In a novel case, the First Department held that the automobile exception, which permits a warrantless search of a vehicle based on probable cause, extends to the exterior of the vehicle. In People v. Howard (1st Dept. 2/1/2011), the police witnessed a suspected drug deal. The Defendant, the driver of the vehicle, reached under the car and handed a small object to a buyer in exchange for cash. The police stopped the vehicle and found drugs attached to the bottom of the car by magnets. The court held, "We see no logical reason to give a closed container attached to the outside of a car any greater protection, especially where it is located in an area directly associated with the observed activity giving rise to probable cause."
The court nevertheless reversed because the trial court improperly rejected a challenge for cause to a juror. (LC)