You're in your car driving along until suddenly you them in your rear view mirror: the flashing blue lights. You are pretty sure you weren't speeding or violating any traffic rules, but it is clear the officer wants to pull YOU over. You are very concerned because you happen to have some of your buddy's narcotic pain medication in your glove box. You decide to play it cool and see what happens…
For some reason, when the officer approaches your window, he looks around and asks you if he can search your vehicle. You respond by saying, “I do not consent to this search without a warrant”. The policeman smiles and asks you to get of your vehicle.
The officer conducts a search of your trunk and glove box and finds the pills. Not good. You are arrested for unlawful possession of a narcotic.
While you know that you committed a crime with respect to possessing the narcotics, you wonder why the officer stopped you in the first place. Was he allowed to do that? Was he allowed to search your car without probable cause? Can you use that in your defense?
Your instincts are possibly correct. If you have any question that you were stopped for no reason whatsoever, and the policeman did not have a warrant when he searched your car, then your next move should be to contact an attorney.
The Fourth Amendment
The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution prevents authorities from conducting unlawful searches and seizures. This generally makes arbitrary and random police car searches without a warrant illegal. However, there are a few exceptions to this rule:
- You give the officer consent to search your car
- The officer has probable cause to search your car (probable cause is a legal term meaning that the officer must have some facts or evidence to believe that you are involved in criminal activity)
- The officer reasonably believes that a search is necessary for his own protection (i.e., a search for a hidden weapon)
- You have been arrested and the search is incident to that arrest
But, what about the stop in the first place?
Vehicles may be legally stopped if an officer has a reasonable and articulable suspicion that the driver has committed a traffic violation. However, if the reason an officer stops a vehicle is for a minor traffic violation like speeding, then the officer is generally not permitted to search the car without more reason.
Hire a Good Criminal Attorney Today
In your case, if you can show that the officer's stop of your vehicle was illegal, then you may be able to have the case thrown out…but not likely without an attorney. A criminal defense attorney can help you prepare a valid defense to present to the judge. But you have to hire one attorney first…
If you are curious as to how an attorney can help you with your case, contact attorney today. Most attorneys offer free case evaluations and will take to the time to discuss your case first—without any obligation.