When a person is pulled over and their vehicle is searched, the police could find evidence of a crime and arrest them. Is this search legal? There are many different variables in a search and seizure and it could be unlawful, which is why a person will want to speak with a lawyer about their situation.
Police Cannot Just Search a Vehicle
When a person is pulled over, the police cannot just demand they exit the vehicle so it can be searched. This would violate the person’s fourth amendment rights. However, they can search a vehicle if they have a warrant, permission, or a valid reason. They can also search the vehicle after the person has been arrested.
Vehicle Owner’s Permission to Search
The easiest way for an officer to be able to search a vehicle is with the owner’s permission. This relieves them of the duty to provide evidence they had a warrant or valid reason to search the vehicle. As such, it’s typically recommended a person declines a search of their vehicle. An attorney can’t fight the validity of the search if the officer had permission for the search.
Probable Cause to Believe there are Illegal Items in the Vehicle
If the officer has probable cause to believe there are illegal drugs, illegal weapons, or other illegal items in the vehicle, they can search it without permission. They can look into the vehicle when they stop a person, so they might notice drugs or paraphernalia when the look in the window. This may give them the probable cause they need to be able to search for further illegal items.
Search Prior to Towing and Storing the Vehicle
If the person is arrested, their vehicle will likely be towed to the police department’s impound lot. As a result, it will need to be searched so everything in the vehicle is accounted for. This is to protect the owner from belongings going missing while it’s impounded, but it could also lead to the discovery of illegal items.
If you’ve been arrested for possession of drugs or other charges because of a search and seizure, make sure you speak with an attorney as quickly as possible. A lawyer like Aric Cramer can review your case to determine if the search was legal and, if not if it’s possible to have the evidence suppressed so the charges can be dismissed.