What can I do if my car was illegally searched? 2 Answers as of June 24, 2014

I parked my car on my street a little ways down from my house. I was not aware that it was illegal to park there overnight. The car was unlocked. When I returned in the morning, a backpack was missing from my car. My neighbor told me he did not know who's car it was so he called the police. Two police officers searched my car at 3 in the morning and didn't give me a ticket for illegally parking but they took my backpack and said it was a "voucher". My backpack had a bong in it but nothing else illegal. I went to the police station to pick up my bag and when I get in, the police officer says let me just check this bag really quick. I said sir isn’t this an unlawful search? He said no because he needed to make sure he was returning all the items he took from me, but how would he know what was in the bag in the first place if he hadn't already looked in it? Anyway he pulled out my expensive bong, took it from me and gave my backpack back. Let me off with a warning. Wasn't the search on my car illegal? And wasn't the search of my bag illegal too? Also, my windows on my car weren't open so they couldn't have smelled weed.

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Barton Barton & Plotkin
Barton Barton & Plotkin | Maurice Ross
If you parked illegally as you admit in your question, the search may not have been illegal. Even if it was illegal, you were not charged with a crime and you got off easy with a warning. Your expensive bong is illegal to possess and you surely cannot expect this illegal item to be returned to you. You have suffered no real economic harm here. Your bong is illegal drug paraphernalia.
Answer Applies to: New York
Replied: 6/24/2014
Law Office of Richard Southard
Law Office of Richard Southard | Richard C Southard
First off, what are you seeking to do? Sue the police department for the return of your drug paraphernalia? Maybe they let you off with a warning because they felt the search was somewhat questionable but be thankful they did. In this age of terrorism and car bombs and backpack bombs, a judge might rule the search was legal in the interest of public safety, depending on the neighbors call of an illegally parked suspicious vehicle. Moreover, if you leave your car unlocked, anyone could have gone in and taken your property.
Answer Applies to: New York
Replied: 6/24/2014
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