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When are police drug searches after a traffic stop legal?

On Behalf of | Oct 13, 2021 | Criminal Defense |

For Georgia drivers who are stopped by law enforcement, knowing their rights is a common concern. In these situations, drivers frequently make mistakes that prove costly. For example, if the officer makes a traffic stop and wants to search the vehicle for drugs, it is important to know when to deny the officer’s request.

The basics of a vehicle search

Drivers do have rights under the law. The Fourth Amendment protects a person from a random car search unless another crime has been committed. Drivers should remember that the officer will be granted the right to search a vehicle if: the driver agrees to it; there is probable cause that a crime has taken place; the officer is doing so for their protection; the officer has a search warrant, or the driver has already been arrested for another crime and the search is connected to that arrest.

To be accommodating, drivers might allow an officer to search a vehicle thinking they will appear cooperative and avoid a criminal charge. They might also believe they have no alternative. This is unwise. Regarding probable cause, if an officer sees illegal activity taking place or the driver is exhibiting clear signs of intoxication, that may be enough to justify the search. Short of that, drivers can say no to a police search.

Drivers should be aware of their rights in a traffic stop

Law enforcement cannot operate on a “feeling” that something is amiss if they do not have evidence. After a traffic stop in which a person was arrested for drugs after a search, it may be a useful strategy to call into question the reason the officer conducted the search to begin with. Crafting a defense to effectively combat the allegations may require experienced assistance.