can a cop search a car in a traffic violation?

Asked on July 5, 2009 under Criminal Law, New York


M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

Without any details surrounding the search it's hard to anaylyze your specific situation.  However, according to the Supreme Court, warrantless searches of a vehicle are permitted by police only if the car’s passenger compartment is within reach of the suspect or there is probable cause to believe evidence will be found of the crime that led to the arrest.

If you could re-submit your question and give some facts.  For example, what where you stopped for, where did the police search, for how long, was there any contraband within plain sight, and generally anything else that you can think of.

Thank you.

B. B., Member, New Jersey Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

That depends on quite a few things.  If a police officer gets some additional information while doing a routine traffic stop (such as smelling marijuana smoke), that can provide probable cause for a search.

This area of the law is changeable and differs from one state to another, and the outcome of a case is very dependent on the specific facts.  For reliable advice, you should talk to a lawyer in your area, if this search led to anything beyond the traffic ticket.

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