There is nothing more startling and fear inducing as looking in the mirror and seeing the flashing blue lights of a police officer informing you of an impending traffic stop. This event not only causes a great amount of stress, but can also lead to a variety of impending legal issues. Although for the most part, this situation results in a simple traffic violation ticket, some police officers also attempt to search the vehicle for anything that could result in additional criminal charges.
Under the 4th Amendment to the Constitution, people are given the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures of their persons and homes. Although this may seem like it gives people a large amount of protection, over time, this right has been interpreted to offer far less protection then meets the eye. This is especially true when dealing with motor vehicles. Due to the highly mobile nature of a car, the Supreme Court has stated that a car is subject to less protection against searches then a person or home.
When A Search Is Allowed
Generally, there are four different situations in which a police officer may search your car:
- Where the individual has given the police officer consent to search the car;
- Where the police officer has a warrant based on probable cause or reasonable suspicion that there is evidence of a crime or weapons present;
- Where the police officer is searching the reaching area of the driver under a search incident to a lawful arrest; or
- Where the police conduct an inventory search of the vehicle following the arrest of the driver and impoundment of the vehicle in order to prevent liability for loss or damage of the owner’s property;
Additionally, unless consent is given, the Supreme Court has determined that it is unreasonable for a police officer to search a car based off a simple traffic stop. However, this does not stop the officer from looking through the windows and observing any illegal contraband or activity that is visible in plain sight.
Things to Consider
When faced with a situation where a police officer has pulled you over, it is important to know your rights. If the stop has occurred for a simple traffic violation, the police officer has no right to search your vehicle. Additionally, if the officer asks you for permission to search the vehicle, you have every right to refuse consent for this search. Although it may seem hard to say no to a police officer due to the level of authority that they have, by standing up for your rights, you can avoid potential legal issues and employ the civil liberties granted to you by the Constitution.
If you have been charged with a crime due a police search of your vehicle, it is important to retain an experienced defense attorney to fight your case. Although the police may have found incriminating evidence, if the search was conducted unconstitutionally, the evidence may be inadmissible in court. As such, don’t hesitate to Contact Us at Minick Law, P.C. for a free consultation. We will zealously fight your charges in order to receive the best possible outcome of your case.