Illegal Search and Seizure
Can police search my car on a traffic stop?
We’ve discussed searches and seizures previously, however, when driving your car, do all the same rights apply on a traffic stop? The answer is, it depends.
Amendment IV of the U.S. Constitution guarantees security against unreasonable searches and seizures and requires warrants to be issued with descriptions of the place to be searched and what persons or things are to be seized. This amendment also requires that “probable cause” is a requirement in order for a warrant to be issued.
Is a Car Different Than My House?
In most courts’ interpretation, yes. A vehicle is mobile, which means flight is more likely in a car than in a home. Additionally, the vehicle has windows that can be looked into and items in the vehicle are in “plain view.” It’s not unusual on a nighttime traffic stop for the police to shine flashlight into the back seat or to look at the floorboards of the vehicle. Part of this is for protection of the police officer against weapons in the vehicle, and part of it is looking for evidence particularly of drinking or other illegal activity while driving. The courts have consistently interpreted the expectation of privacy in a vehicle to be less than what is in a home due to its mobile and more public nature.
Warrantless searches are found to be valid by the courts in certain circumstances. These include:
If consent is given for a search
If the search is incident to an arrest
If taking the time to get a warrant would allow a suspect to escape or destroy evidence
If evidence is in plain view
If police are in hot pursuit of a suspect
Vehicles may be searched upon reasonable belief of a crime, a lesser standard than probable cause.
Examples of Reasonable Belief of a Crime
You are stopped by police and empty beer or liquor containers are seen on the floorboard or seats of your vehicle.
The police smell marijuana smoke when they approach your vehicle. While possession of up the 1 ounce is legal for adults in Nevada, you may not smoke marijuana while driving, or drive impaired.
We recommend that on any traffic stop, you remain in your vehicle, unless asked to exit the vehicle by the police officer. When leaving the vehicle, lock your doors and if police move toward the vehicle, state that you do not give consent for the vehicle to be searched.
In All Cases, the Court May Suppress Evidence Obtained by a Warrantless Search
While a search can be performed without your consent, if the court finds that none of the above exceptions apply, and that reasonable belief of a crime is not supported, your defense attorney will move that any evidence obtained without a warrant be suppressed from court proceedings.
The Defenders will Aggressively Protect Your Rights in Any Search or Seizure
Any search or seizure is subject to review by the courts. An aggressive defense attorney will protect your rights and make motions to the court to suppress evidence obtained in a vehicle search. Some or all evidence obtained in such a search may be found by the courts to be unreasonable. The lawyers of The Defenders know the law and will use all available legal tools to protect you in such cases. If you’re vehicle has been searched, call us today to discuss your case at (702) 333-3333.
Las Vegas Drug Crimes Criminal Defense Attorney – The Defenders
It is important you contact The Defenders immediately so we can start creating an aggressive defense for your case. The Defenders delivers an honest and straightforward response to your charges while providing you personable and communicative involvement throughout the duration of your case. We’re aggressive when we need to be, compassionate when it counts, and always dedicated to your success. That’s what makes us The Defenders, a proud branch of the Richard Harris Law Firm.
We have the experience and knowledge you need to make sure you get the best judgment for your case. We are available day and night to start the process. Simply fill out our Contact Us form or call us at 702.333.3333.You don’t have to go through this alone, call us today!
The firm is led by attorney K. Ryan Helmick of The Defenders, who is experienced in dozens of criminal law matters. He and his team have helped thousands of people with their cases. It is his passion. Read more about Ryan here.