During a traffic stop, it can feel as though the driver has no power in the situation. While it may seem that the officer that pulled you over is doing whatever they please, you still have legal protections that you can rely on. The fourth amendment is the law that protects you from illegal searches that the police may try to conduct, so what needs to happen for an illegal search to occur?
When is a search legal?
Most people are familiar with what a warrant is. These legal documents grant police officers the right to search property, provided they go through the proper channels to secure the warrant. It is unlikely that a police officer will have a warrant to search your vehicle during a traffic stop, but there are other ways for them to search your vehicle, including:
- The driver of the vehicle verbally consenting to the search
- The police arrested the driver, and they are looking for any additional evidence or signs of danger
- Seizing proof that is in plain sight of the police officer
- An emergency situation, such as searching for a suspect that is fleeing the police
These instances of probable cause can be enough of a reason for police officers to search your vehicle. However, if you suspect that officers are conducting an illegal search, that does not mean you should interfere with the search. Interfering with police activity can result in additional charges against you, such as obstruction of justice.
What can you do about an illegal search?
If you suspect that police officers are conducting an illegal search of your property, wait until you have an opportunity to talk to your lawyer. An experienced criminal defense attorney will help you fight the unlawful actions that police conducted at the time of their illegal search.