Your knowledge of the law may be minimal at best. Like most people in Georgia and across the country, you likely know enough about legal issues to know what actions could get you in trouble. However, also like many people, you may not know enough about your legal rights to fully know whether an officer violated those rights during a traffic stop.
If you found yourself pulled over by a police officer and that traffic stop ended in your arrest, you may have a suspicion that the officer did not conduct him- or herself in accordance with the law. In particular, you feel that the officer may have illegally searched your vehicle. How can you know?
Does an officer need a warrant?
Unlike a home search, police officers do not need a warrant to search a person’s vehicle. However, they do need to have either your permission or probable cause to carry out a search. This means that a police officer cannot ask you to step out of your vehicle and immediately start rifling through your car. It does mean that a search can take place if any of the following details apply:
- The officer asked if he or she could search your vehicle, and you consented.
- The officer believed that you had a weapon or that other circumstances existed that could pose a potential threat to him or her.
- The officer saw questionable looking substances, open alcohol containers, drug paraphernalia or other items in plain sight that caused him or her to suspect criminal activity.
- The officer placed you under arrest for a violation and conducted a search to look for additional evidence relating to the arrest charge.
If these factors did not apply to your situation but an officer conducted a search anyway, he or she may have found supposed evidence that resulted in your arrest. Now, what can you do?
Consider your legal options
If you believe that the officer conducted an unlawful search of your vehicle that resulted in your subsequent arrest, that detail could play a substantial part in your criminal case. If the court determines that the officer violated your rights, the court could deem any evidence discovered during that unlawful search inadmissible. Going over this information with an experienced defense attorney could help you determine whether the officer violated your rights and whether you have reason to address this point in court.