If a police officer searches your car at a traffic stop, then it is possible that the search was lawful! However, it is also possible that the search was unlawful and in violation of your constitutional rights. Law enforcement officers conduct warrantless searches quite frequently during the course of their duties, and a defense attorney can identify whether your search was legal or not.
The Fourth Amendment protects citizens from unreasonable searches and seizures. Generally speaking, a reasonable search requires a warrant, though there are some exceptions that allow warrantless searches.
Some warrantless searches do not fall within any exception and may be invalid. Also, some warrants may be defective because the officer did not follow the correct procedure for obtaining a valid warrant. How do you know if any of these circumstances apply in your case?
The lawyers of O’Keeffe O’Brien Lyson Attorneys can help you determine if you were the victim of an unlawful search. Police searches are intimidating and often happen quickly or while you are in handcuffs. An experienced Fourth Amendment attorney should review the facts of your case and determine whether the search was justified. Next, an attorney may be able to file a motion to suppress any evidence obtained due to an illegal search, which can often help your case substantially.
An officer may search your vehicle during a routine traffic stop if you grant the officer permission to search your vehicle. The officer may ask to search your car, and if you grant consent, then the officer is legally permitted to search within your car without a warrant.
Officers may also search an automobile if they have probable cause to believe that the car holds evidence of a crime or is being used in criminal activity. Probable cause exists when the police have evidence that a crime has been, is being, or will be committed.
Another exception to the search warrant requirement is the search incident to arrest. If the law enforcement officers place you under arrest, then they can search certain areas of your car. Also, the police officers may perform an inventory search of your vehicle when it is impounded. Anything the officers inventory during the search can be used against you in court.
The plain view exception can also overcome the search warrant requirement. If police officers perform a routine traffic stop and observe illegal contraband in plain view in the car, then the officers can seize that evidence without a warrant. Plain view also includes smell, and an officer may search your vehicle if you or your vehicle emit an odor of drugs or alcohol.
If you were arrested following a vehicle search, you should not wait to seek help from the right criminal defense attorney. Our legal professionals can help you determine how to suppress illegally obtained evidence, as well as present other available defenses against criminal charges. Contact our experienced criminal defense attorney, Tatum O’Brien, by email, or call O’Keeffe O’Brien Lyson Attorneys at 701-235-8000 or toll-free 877-235-8002.