What You Should Know About Car Searches After Traffic Stops

There are federal rules in place to safeguard citizens from police misbehavior. In addition, the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution also protects you from unreasonable searches and seizures and protection frequently invoked in criminal cases. If you are facing criminal accusations, regardless of whether they result from a car search, consult David E. Stanley, an experienced criminal defense attorney.

When is it illegal to conduct a traffic stop or a car search? Unfortunately, police officers are frequently willing to break the rules regarding handling people, particularly when they suspect a narcotics crime. A cop may be eager to stop you for questionable reasons or inspect your vehicle without having the legal authority to do so. When would you be able to object to a traffic stop or a police search of your car?

For law enforcement, there are numerous motivations, not the least of which is civil asset forfeiture, which might provide their department with additional incentives. That is why it is necessary to employ the services of an experienced attorney who is knowledgeable on traffic stop legal advice if your car was detained at a stop and then searched. The best lawyer for that is David E. Stanley, APLC. Contact him today for a free consultation.

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4 Legalities of Car Searches After Traffic Stops

1. The Police Must Justify a Traffic Stop

You have the right to question why an officer pulled you over as soon as they did. If they don’t have a compelling basis for stopping you, it’s a red flag that they’ve likely infringed on your rights.

A traffic stop usually results in a citation, and the irritated motorist drives away. However, an officer may extend a traffic stop and search the driver’s vehicle.

An officer who has stopped a car may have legal grounds to search it in specific cases. However, sometimes that just isn’t available. For example, suppose an officer doesn’t see any apparent traffic violations or has any other objective reason for pulling a car over in the first place. In that case, any evidence uncovered during a car search will undoubtedly be inadmissible in court.

Officers may profile you if they see you leaving a particular company or if you have a particular bumper sticker on your vehicle. In addition, a police officer may profile you and pull you over without probable cause based on the year and condition of your vehicle or your looks.

A traffic stop without probable grounds to suspect a major traffic offense is illegal, and the courts may exclude any evidence discovered during that traffic stop.

2. Car Searches Conducted Following a Simple Detention

Even if a traffic stop is legal, an officer who issues you a citation cannot search you or your vehicle unless there is a reasonable suspicion that you are armed and dangerous or involved in criminal conduct (other than the minor traffic violation).

The notion that the police can’t inspect a car just because they’ve stopped it. In the case of rental cars, the practical rule is that police may not inspect a rental car following a traffic stop solely because the driver is not listed on the rental agreement. By not being on the rental agreement, someone who has the authorization to use an automobile from the person who rented the car does not lose all of their Fourth Amendment rights.

3. A Car is Searched Following an Arrest

Despite the above rule, officers can inspect cars they’ve stopped in various situations. For example, many states have laws that allow police officers to arrest drivers for minor traffic violations like speeding or not wearing a seatbelt. The facts determine the legality of a later search in these and other arrest scenarios.

Police may check the passenger compartment of a car after detaining an occupant if it appears that the arrestee might get access to the vehicle during the search or if the vehicle contains:

  • Weapons
  • Objects illegally possessed, such as contraband or burglary tools
  • Evidence linked to a traffic stop
  • Ways of eluding detection

The following search must be limited to locations where the searching officer expects to discover the objects they are looking for.

4. Must Have Probable Reason to Search Your Vehicle

You may be arrested if a police officer discovers even tiny amounts of illegal narcotics in your vehicle. For example, a marijuana seed left by a former owner or a small amount of cocaine left by a passenger could be enough for the cops to arrest and charge you with a crime.

To search your vehicle, they usually need probable cause or a warrant. You should inspect your vehicle when you pull down the window and see drug paraphernalia or smell something. What an officer finds when they search your car without probable cause or your permission may not hold up in court. Knowing when police have the authority to stop you and search your vehicle can help you defend yourself against drug allegations.

Knowing when police have the authority to stop you and search your vehicle can help you defend yourself against drug allegations.

Frequently Asked Questions:

What is a Traffic Stop?

A traffic stop is a seizure and detention of a vehicle’s occupants violating the Fourth Amendment. A standard traffic stop is justified if a police officer rightfully suspects that the occupant is driving without a license or that the car is unregistered.

What is the Automobile Exception to the 4th Amendment?

The automobile exception to the 4th Amendment is a legal rule in the United States that reduces standard probable cause requirements and, in some circumstances, permits a police officer to search a motor vehicle without a search warrant.

When Can Police Seize a Vehicle?

Police can sequester a vehicle if they believe it is being utilized in a way that causes alarm, harassment, or distress, such as careless or inconsiderate driving. They can also take a car if they suspect someone is operating it without a valid license or insurance.

Experienced Criminal Defense Lawyer

David Stanley is a proactive defense lawyer with over 35 years of experience in criminal defense. He is the founder and principal of David E. Stanley, APLC. Mr. Stanley is a successful trial lawyer who devotes his practice to defending people accused of significant or complex federal or state felony crimes. In addition, he is determined to protect those who want to appeal their conviction or sentence to a federal or state appellate court.

Call David E. Stanley, APLC Now
at (225) 416-5422
For a Consultation!

David E. Stanley, APLC
1055 Laurel Street Suite 2
Baton Rouge, LA 70802
(225) 416-5422