Recently, I've represented a number of clients who have been stopped by police for minor traffic violations only to be arrested for possession of marijuana or other drugs. People should be aware that the 4th Amendment of the United States Constitution protects them against invasions of their privacy by police. Specifically, the 4th Amendment states that "people to have aright to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures."
There are very limited instances where police are able to search your vehicle. These include:
- Consent - where you give them permission
- Warrant - where police apply for and obtain a court order to search
- Arrest - Police can search you car following an arrest they are going to tow and impound it.
- Emergency - In limited circumstances, police can search a vehicle if they have probable cause. This is known as the "exigency exception to the warrant requirement."
If you are stopped and police ask to search your vehicle, you are well within your rights to say "no." Of course, you may be detained while a warrant is obtained or subject to a search anyway if there is probable cause. However, simply granting the police permission may limit your attorney's ability to defend you against subsequent criminal charges. Some possible defenses which are available when police arrested you after searching your vehicle include:
- That your consent was not voluntary or freely given
- That police unreasonably detained you in preparation to search your car or while waiting for a canine
- That the warrant obtained by police was faulty
- That police searched your vehicle following an arrest in violation of established case law.
If any of these issues arise, evidence obtained by police following a car search can be challenged in court through a Motion to Suppress. In a Suppression Hearing, prosecutors and police must demonstrate that their actions were lawful.
If you or someone you know has been arrested following a search of their vehicle, you have rights. Contact my office at 480-833-8613 anytime for a free consultation to discuss the facts of your case as well as any possible defenses.