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Searching for Marijuana During a Traffic Stop


We see many instances when multiple charges are tacked on as the result of a traffic stop where the car was then searched and illegal drugs are found. It starts with something as innocent as a crooked license plate or a missing taillight. An officer pulls the car over to investigate the situation and possibly issue a citation. From there, things can get interesting based on what the officer sees, hears and smells.

If an officer of the law has any “reasonable suspicion or probably cause,” they can legally search your vehicles. Based on the results of that search, the driver and/or passengers could potentially face additional charges. If marijuana is found, charges might include possession, possession with intent to sell, or drug trafficking among others.

Under the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States, a person is protected from unreasonable searches of their homes and of their person. As cars became more popular in the early 1900’s, the amendment was expanded to include cars. This typically means that the police would need a search warrant before they could proceed with a search of your property. However, with cars, it’s different. Depending on the situation, officers can search a vehicle without a search warrant.

Reasons for searching a vehicle include the following:

  • If the police have grounds to place a driver under arrest, they can legally perform a search of the immediate vicinity of the driver.
  • If a vehicle is impounded, the police can perform an inventory search of all items inside the car.
  • If the police have a reasonable suspicion that a weapon or evidence of the crime for which the driver was pulled over can be found.

This is where things can get tricky. Should the matter go to court, it can easily turn into situation where it is the driver’s word against the police. It becomes necessary to establish why the traffic stop happened in the first place and if there was reasonable suspicion for searching the vehicle.

Here are 3 things you should remember if you are pulled over for any traffic stop:

  1. Do not leave incriminating evidence out in plain view of the officer. Just because you have rights that protect your from illegal searches doesn’t mean you should give officers any help in establishing reasonable suspicion.
  2. Do not consent to a search of your vehicle. If an officer truly has enough suspicion to search your vehicle, they won’t have to ask for your permission. If they do ask for permission to search your car and you consent, it’s very difficult to challenge the search or any evidence they find.
  3. Call Charlie Naegle. Charlie has been working in the criminal law arena for years and brings his experience and knowledge of the law to every case. He’ll know how to challenge the search of your vehicle and fight the any charges you may be facing as a result of that search.
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