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When Can Police Search My Car During a Traffic Stop?

 Posted on July 13, 2023 in Criminal Law

Tarrant County, TX criminal defense lawyerIn alleged drug crimes, law enforcement often finds the evidence that they are relying on to make their case in the defendant’s car. Police do not have an unlimited right to search your car, however, especially when they do not have a search warrant. But there are some exceptions that allow them to search your car during a traffic stop. If you have been arrested for items found in your vehicle, a drug crimes defense attorney could possibly help you have evidence against you suppressed if it has been illegally seized.

Police Can Search Your Car with Probable Cause

Without a warrant, police must have probable cause to conduct a search of your person, residence, or possessions. Probable cause is defined as a reasonable person believing that a crime was in the process of being committed, had been committed, or was going to be committed. However, there is an exception to the requirement to obtain a search warrant when there are exigent circumstances. When you are driving a car, there is a high probability that police might think whatever evidence of a crime is there might disappear if they are not able to immediately search your car. So when police have probable cause, they can carry out a reasonable search of your car, which can even include your trunk. 

Probable Cause v. Reasonable Suspicion

Even if police do not initially have probable cause to carry out a full search of your vehicle, they may have cause for reasonable suspicion  based on a driver's behavior while driving or during the traffic stop. Reasonable suspicion is a lower standard than probable cause, but it can easily lead to a police officer seeing something that gives them probable cause which then allows them to search your vehicle. For example, if a police officer sees someone swerving out of a lane, he may pull over the driver on reasonable suspicion that the driver is drunk. However, this does not give the officer permission to search the car for drugs or alcohol; the officer must then speak with the driver, and if the driver smells like marijuana, the police may then have probable cause that justifies a search of the car's interior. 

If you were searched but law enforcement did not have valid grounds to conduct the search, any evidence they found and want to use in a case against you could be thrown out. You can expect that the prosecutor will argue that an exception applies that allows them to use evidence against you, such as the fact that it was in open view, or that it would have inevitably been discovered. We are here to help you fight these claims. 

Contact a Dallas Drug Crimes Defense Attorney Today

If you have been charged with a drug crime, you need legal help from an experienced Dallas drug crimes attorney today. At Law Office of Michelle Poblenz, we know how prosecutors think, so we can provide you with a strong legal defense. To speak with a lawyer, you can call us today at 469-845-3031.



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