Did an Improper Search Result in Charges Against You?
Traffic stops occur thousands of times every day in this country. Most of the time, they are relatively uneventful. But in some cases, those stops result in criminal charges and jail time. If your rights were violated, it could mean the case will have to be dropped. An experienced criminal defense attorney is your best resource in these circumstances.
The first thing drivers should know is that the police cannot stop you on a whim. They must have a legitimate reason, or probable cause, such as an improper turn or missing license plates.
In the event they do have probable cause for pulling you over, they may cite you with a ticket, or they could give you a break and forgo the citation. If in the course of discussing the situation with you, the officer spots a baggie with marijuana in it on the passenger seat, you could be arrested for possessing an illegal substance. Whether or not you were ticketed for the original traffic violation, they are required to keep notes on the stop, and that documentation is their justification of probable cause for the original stop.
Legitimate Reasons for Searching your Vehicle
There are limitations on the right of law enforcement officers to search your vehicle once you’ve been pulled over. However, your vehicle can be searched under the circumstances described below:
- You consent, giving them permission;
- There is something in “plain view,” such as illicit substances in the front seat of the car;
- If you are being arrested and your vehicle is being impounded, the officer may search the vehicle to inventory your possessions for documentation purposes for you & the tow company;
- If upon first contact with a police officer, the officer can smell an odor of marijuana coming from your vehicle, the officer can search your vehicle according to the Carroll Doctrine.
- If there is probable cause to believe a crime has occurred, the vehicle may be searched. For example, if the car is drenched in blood, shreds of women’s clothing are crumpled in the car, and you have scratches on your face, an officer might combine those facts to reasonably suspect you and the vehicle have been involved in the commission of a crime;
- Exigent circumstances, such as the belief that you are about to destroy evidence, gives an officer the right to search your vehicle;
- You are presented with a warrant giving the officer the right to search your vehicle.
A Reasonable Search
A search must be reasonable. If an has probable cause to believe that your vehicle contains a firearm, the officer may search in any place that might reasonably conceal the weapon such as the glove box or under the seat. Searching the cigarette lighter area is not a reasonable location for a firearm to be found. If the officer searches that area and finds a stash of illegal pills, that evidence may be inadmissible in court.
Search of Your Person
A law enforcement officer can search your person incident to arrest. That means that once you have been placed in handcuffs, an officer will search your person for anything illegal or dangerous. It is the officer’s responsibility to make sure that you do not bring anything illegal or dangerous into the adult detention facility or the officer’s patrol vehicle. Additionally, if drugs or alcohol are suspected and you have been operating, or in actual physical control of a vehicle, an officer can request that you submit to additional tests.
In Florida, you agree to take a Breathalyzer test when you apply for your driver’s license. It’s called implied consent. Likewise, implied consent applies to blood & urine tests that are requested by the officer as per Florida statute 316.1932. While you could refuse to take the test, you have your driver’s license suspended for that refusal for a period of time.
If you believe your arrest was the result of improper search and your 4th Amendment rights were violated, you need to contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer. Contact Attorney Deric Zacca, Esq. at the office of Deric Zacca, P.A. in Fort Lauderdale for a consultation.