Police can no longer search cars without a warrant unless there is both probable cause to believe a crime occurred and emergency circumstances that require immediate action, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled in an opinion That’s a reversal for the court, which in a 2014 opinion in the case Commonwealth v. Gary had cleared the way for warrantless searches.
The 4-3 decision said the state constitution’s privacy protections are greater than the U.S. Constitution’s and that those protections extend to vehicles. “Difficulties in clarifying the scope of the exigency requirement will lead to debates about what exactly the Pennsylvania Constitution demands in a given situation. But so what?” wrote Justice Christine Donohue, referring to the state’s constitutional language on searches.
The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania decision consists of a majority opinion, a concurring opinion, and three dissenting opinions (here, here, and here).