Can a police officer legally search vehicle and other occupants after a traffic violation?

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Can a police officer legally search vehicle and other occupants after a traffic violation?

driver was pulled over for traffic violation. Then searches passengers of vehicle
and finds incriminating evidence. Was the detainment and arrest of the passengers
justified since the initial stop was traffic related?

Asked on December 10, 2016 under Criminal Law, California

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

A traffic stop by itself would not legally justify searching the passengers. However, if the officer saw, heard, or smelled anything suspicious during the stop (for example, smelled alcohol or marijuana; saw a baggie of powder; saw passengers trying to push something under seat to hide it; observed passengers acting as if stoned; saw the tip of a gun or knife protruding from a pocket, waistband, bag; etc.) that could justify the search--officers may act on what they see, hear, smell, etc. in plain site.


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