In the United States, the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution protects citizens from unreasonable searches or confiscation of property. Unfortunately, too often government officials overstep legal boundaries in the interest of exercising their power rather than serving the law.
Traffic stops are among the most common situations in which officers may attempt to encroach on your Fourth Amendment rights.
When can an officer search your vehicle?
Unlike your home, an officer may not need the warrant to search your vehicle. However, he or she does need probable cause of criminal behavior to force a search, even if you have been pulled over for a legitimate traffic violation.
What if an officer asks to perform a search?
An officer making a traffic stop may not have probable cause of a crime yet try to perform a search by asking your permission or implying that you need to consent. Keep in mind that, by providing consent, you may be waiving your Fourth Amendment rights. If the officer had probable cause, he or she would not need you to agree to a search.
What happens if officers find evidence during an illegal search?
If officers perform a vehicle search without reasonable cause of a crime and your consent, evidence confiscated during the stop may not be admissible in court. This may result in a dismissal of charges.
For too many Americans, even a routine traffic stop may lead to a lifetime of consequences. If you are facing charges after an officer overstepped his or her legal bounds, know that presenting a strong defense regarding illegal search procedures may help you challenge a potential conviction.