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Consent to search of vehicle does not extend to engine compartment.

A recent Supreme Judicial Court decision has limited the scope of what constitutes a permissable search of a vehicle when consented to by the Operator of that vehicle.

In a 4-3 decision in the Hampden County case Commonwealth v. Anthony C. Ortiz, Chief Justice Ralph Gants wrote: “In this case we must decide whether a driver’s consent to allow the police to search for narcotics or firearms ‘in the vehicle’ authorizes a police officer to search under the hood of the vehicle and, as part of that search, to remove the vehicle’s air filter. We hold that it does not.

“A typical reasonable person would understand the scope of such consent to be limited to a search of the interior of the vehicle, including the trunk,” Gants said.

In this particular case, the police found two guns hidden under the air filter in the engine compartment.

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