Doesan officer have the right to search your car if they only pulled you over for a light being out?

Is a light being out probable cause to search a car? And if so, if they find anything illegal can they use it as evidence or is that considered illegal search and seizure?

Asked on March 16, 2011 under Criminal Law, Michigan

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

Generally speaking, a light being out by itself would not be probably cause for a search of the car. But a light being out would be cause for a stop, and then there may be additional circumstances which provide probably cause, such as--

* The smell of marijuana

* Suspicious actions by the driver--like suddenly shoving something under the seat

* Running the plate revealing outstanding warrants against the driver, or that the car was reported as stolen

* What looked to be weapon or bag of drugs in view

* Comments by the driver or passengers

* Etc.

It depends on the totality of the circumtances, and a criminal defense attorney can review the situation to help you determine if this likely a proper search and also what you can or should do. If the search was improper, then it may be possible to exclude any evidence, so this is an important determination to make. Good luck.


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