The Fourth Amendment’s protection against unlawful search and seizure
essentially restricts arbitrary vehicle searches by law enforcement. If
the police search your car without a warrant, a valid reason, or your
consent, they are in violation of your constitutional rights.
However, not every police search must be made under a lawfully executed
warrant. There are some circumstances in which police can search a vehicle
without obtaining a warrant.
The following are the five circumstances which enable law enforcement to
search your vehicle without a warrant:
- You have given the officer consent to search your vehicle
- The police have “probable cause” to believe the vehicle contains
illegal substances, contraband, or any evidence of a criminal offense
- The police are lawfully arresting an occupant of the vehicle—and
either the person being arrested is within reaching distance of the interior
of the car, or it is reasonable to believe the vehicle contains evidence
about the crime for which he/she is being arrested
- The police are temporarily detaining an occupant of the car and reasonably
believe that he or she may be dangerous and have access to weapons stored
in the vehicle
- The vehicle has been lawfully impounded by police and they are conducting
an “inventory search”
If you are a victim of an unlawful vehicle search by law enforcement and
you are charged with a criminal offense based on evidence found in the
search, you can challenge the evidence with the help of an experienced
criminal defense attorney. This is generally done through a Penal Code
1538.5 PC motion to suppress evidence, which is a common pretrial motion.
A 1538.5 PC motion to suppress is a request to the judge to throw out any
evidence that was either (1) obtained through an unreasonable search and
seizure performed without a warrant or (2) obtained through a search that
was conducted with a warrant—but where the warrant was deficient
or the search was performed in an unconstitutional manner. And if that
evidence is crucial to the prosecutor’s case against you, then you
may be able to get the charges against you reduced or even dismissed entirely.
For more information,
Ventura criminal defense lawyer at
The Law Offices of Jarrod M. Wilfert today.