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Search and seizures during a traffic stop and what makes them illegal

| Aug 6, 2020 | Criminal Defense, Search And Seizure

Whether it is the first time or not, being signaled to pull over by authorities can be a very nerve wrecking driving experience. In your head, you will either get a warning or a traffic ticket and will be sent on your way. But this traffic stop is different. You were asked several questions, one of them being to search your vehicle. Unsure of your options, the search occurred, resulting in your arrest and charge for drug possession.

A traffic stop may seem like a minor inconvenience, but many motorists in Tennessee and elsewhere are faced with criminal charges following a search and seizure that occurred during a traffic stop. Thus, it is imperative for motorists to be aware of their rights and options when such a situation occurs.

Can law enforcement conduct a search during a traffic stop?

In order for law enforcement to conduct a search of your vehicle or frisk your body, there must be reasonable suspicion. With regards to frisking your body, police must have reasonable suspicion that you are armed. Similarly, police can also pat you down for contraband, such as drugs. Additionally, if a motorist is arrested following a traffic stop, a search of the arrestee’s person and their immediate surroundings can lawfully occur without a search warrant.

Are search warrants needed?

When a search warrant is sough, law enforcement must make a showing to the judge that there is probable cause that a crime occurred and the evidence or contraband linked to the named crime is more than likely to be found at the named property or on the person in question.

However, search warrants are not always needed. There are four instances where an officer does not require a search warrant. First, if consent is given to conduct a search, then a warrant is not needed. Next, if it is during an emergency situation, such as police pursuing an armed suspect, a search warrant is not needed to conduct a search for this person.

Third, a search incident to an arrest does not require a search warrant. This means law enforcement has the authority to search their person and immediate surroundings for weapons. Finally, if something is in plain view, a search warrant is not needed for this search and seizure if it was in fact plain view and police were legally authorized to be there.

Using an illegal search and seizure as a defense

When a search has resulted in your arrest, you may have many questions about the process that has led to the drug charges you currently face. This may include questioning the lawfulness of the traffic stop, search of your person and vehicle and the seizure of items discovered during a search. If an illegal search and seizure did occur, it may be possible to have the charges reduced or even dismissed, making it is valuable defense action to consider.

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