Vehicle searches are a hot topic because many people do not realize they can, and should, decline a search of their vehicle or do not realize this is something that could significantly impact their case. Anyone who was arrested as the result of a vehicle search will want to speak with an attorney who can look into the legality of the search for them as the person’s charges could be dismissed if the search was illegal.
What Makes a Vehicle Search Legal?
Officers can search a vehicle when they have permission, when they have probable cause, when they have a warrant, or after an arrest, if the vehicle is being impounded.
- Permission – The officer can ask to search the vehicle and the person can give their permission so long as they’re the owner of the vehicle.
- Probable Cause – Any officer can search a vehicle if they have reason to believe there are illegal items in the vehicle, such as drugs. This often occurs when they can see drugs or weapons in plain view by looking into the windows.
- Warrant – A warrant can be issued that will enable the officer to search the vehicle. This does not happen at a typical traffic stop as there usually isn’t sufficient time to obtain a warrant.
- Impounded Vehicle – After the person is arrested, the vehicle will need to be searched so it can be impounded. The officers will search the vehicle as they create a list of items in it for the impound lot.
How Can the Vehicle Search Lead to Dismissed Charges?
If the search is not legal, anything resulting from the search may be suppressed. This is the fruit of the forbidden tree doctrine. There are some exceptions to this, however, which make it complicated for a person to deal with on their own. If enough evidence is suppressed, the prosecution may no longer have sufficient evidence to obtain a conviction so they might agree to dismiss the charges.
If you’ve been arrested as the result of illegal items found in your vehicle during a search, you need to contact a lawyer quickly. An attorney like Aric Cramer will look into your situation to determine the legality of the search and help you form a defense against the charges based on whether the search was legally conducted.