Common search and seizure issues during traffic stops

On Behalf of | Sep 12, 2023 | Criminal Defense

Nobody ever expects to drive and suddenly be pulled over by a Texas police officer. Although this could happen to anyone, it can be a nightmare if the officer suddenly searches your vehicle suspecting that they will find drugs. If this occurs, remember that you have rights; these are common search and seizure issues involving such a scenario during a traffic stop.

Legal searches of vehicles

Per criminal law, there are certain situations when it’s legal for police to conduct a search of a vehicle. One is when they have a warrant to do so. Police must have sufficient probable cause to obtain a warrant, that is issued by a judge. Note that it may be possible to challenge a warrant in a criminal case. It is important to seek the assistance of a qualified criminal defense lawyer if charges are filed.

Consent gives police the right to search a vehicle for drugs or anything else in the scope of a crime. Consent may involve a gray area. It is important to note that simply agreeing to allow a search may be sufficient. Drivers may be cordial with law enforcement, but giving police permission to conduct a search goes beyond what many believe is necessary to be civil, as driver do have the right to protect their constitutional rights.

Officers can also perform a search if drugs are in plain view in the vehicle. However, law enforcement may only rely on the “plain view” theory if they are lawfully in a place to legally view the alleged contraband. That means they must have had reasonable suspicion to conduct the traffic stop in the first place. These issues involve detailed nuances that should be reviewed by an experienced criminal defense trial lawyer. ,

If a person has already been arrested, the police can search their vehicle. They can also do so if they make a traffic stop and have probable cause to believe they will find drugs in the car; for example, the officer clearly detects the smell of marijuana wafting through the air upon approaching the vehicle. This factor is known as “vehicle exception.” Even when prosecutors believe that the so-called vehicle exception applies, a drug crime defense attorney should review the fine details.

Search and seizure and your Fourth Amendment rights

Under the Fourth Amendment, you have the right to be protected from an unlawful search and seizure. This includes situations where a police officer makes a traffic stop; law enforcement cannot randomly make a driver pull over for no reason and search their vehicle to uncover drugs or anything else. However, even if law enforcement officers uncover something suspicious, under the Fourth Amendment, an unlawful stop and search can result in the suppression of the evidence.

You have the right to your privacy. If the police pull you over, find drugs in your vehicle and arrest you but the search was illegal, the charges against you might very well be dismissed.

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