The Boundaries of Legal Search

If you are pulled over by the police for a traffic offense, you can expect the police to attempt to search your vehicle. Jay Kelsey, 47, of West Wendover experienced exactly that when he was pulled over under suspicion of DUI. When the police searched his vehicle, they found a loaded rifle. Kelsey was subsequently booked for drunk driving, carrying a loaded rifle in a vehicle and possessing a firearm when under the influence of alcohol.

The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution provides fundamental protection against unwarranted searches, which must not be carried out without a warrant based on probable cause. In cases of vehicle search, though, different rules may apply.

If the police stop your vehicle with probable cause to suspect that you are in the possession of contraband or other illegal goods, they would ordinarily request your consent to search your vehicle. You do not have to consent to the search. If you refuse, they need to have a pressing reason to be able to carry out a search immediately and without your consent. They need to obtain a warrant if they do not have a pressing reason.

Note that the police sometimes disguise a request for consent by using language that suggests that you do not in fact have the right to refuse. Beware of this language and make it clear that you do not consent to the search.

If your vehicle or person was searched without consent, your lawyer can file a motion to suppress evidence recovered in the search. If the motion is successful, the court must disregard any illegal material or other evidence that the police discovered when carrying out the search without obtaining your permission.

Get in touch with a tough Reno criminal defense attorney to discuss your rights if you have been subject to a search of your vehicle.

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