Under the 4th Amendment, the Constitution states that an individual is to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures in their homes and on their persons. This is primarily due to the fact that a person has a reasonable expectation of privacy in these locations. However, does the 4th Amendment protect individuals from a search of the locked glove compartment and trunk of their car?
4th Amendment Protection of Vehicles
Many people believe that since the 4th Amendment protects their home and individual persons, this protection also extends to their vehicles. Unfortunately, this is not true. In a variety of cases, the Supreme Court has ruled that the 4th Amendment does not provide the same level of protection to a car as it does to a house. The Supreme Court has rationalized this due to the high mobility of a motor vehicle, the use of motor vehicles in public places, and the ease in which a car can be used for criminal behavior. As such, a person cannot expect to have a reasonable expectation of privacy in their car.
Searching The Glove Compartment and Trunk
Generally, courts have allowed the search of an individual’s vehicle when the police officer has probable cause of a crime, the commission of a crime, or evidence of a crime. Once probable cause has been established, police officers are allowed to search anywhere in the car that is either under control or within the reaching distance of the driver. This means that almost everything is fair game to be searched inside a vehicle, including a passenger’s belongings like a backpack or purse. As such, a police officer is allowed to search the glove compartment and the trunk as long as probable cause exists. Although probable cause may seem like it may limit searches by a police officer, it is a relatively and subjective standard to be met by a police office on the scene.
If you or someone you know have been charged with a criminal charge based off the search of your car, it is important to consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney that can help zealously defend your case and possibly get the evidence excluded. Contact Us at Minick Law, P.C. for a free consultation on your case.