Can a police officer search a car without just cause or a warrant?

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Can a police officer search a car without just cause or a warrant?

Asked on December 13, 2012 under Criminal Law, Pennsylvania

Answers:

David West / West & Corvelli

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

Wow, there are litterally books devoted to answering this question so I will try and give you the short version.  The answer is absolutely not.  In fact our Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution specifically prohibits police or the government from illegally searching the property of citizens of the United States.  Thousands of cases have been written by the Supreme Court of the United States and every other court in America holding that before police can search an automobile without a warrant, they must first have probable cause to believe that evidence of a crime is contained therein.  

Probable cause can be established in many ways.  The most common are that police state that the occupants of the vehicle or the vehicle itself smelled like marijuana - hence they have probable cause to believe drugs are in the car.  In other cases they may be merely suspicious that the person or passengers are up to no good and they will try and establish probable cause other ways (such as getting passengers stories to contradict each other or calling a drug dog at the scene to sniff the car).  Police are constantly trying to think of new and inventive ways to establish that they have probable cause to search a vehicle.

Experienced drug defense lawyers such as myself have spent our entire careers fighting these illegal searches often with great success.  Police will make mistakes and when they do it is a good criminla lawyer that catches them.  

You should try and get a free consultation with an experience drug defense lawyer and discuss your case with them.  They can determine if the search in your case is illegal and tell you what steps can be taken to get such a case dismissed.

Best Regards,

David West

Attorney at Law

David West / David West & Associates

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

Wow, there are litterally books devoted to answering this question so I will try and give you the short version.  The answer is absolutely not.  In fact our Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution specifically prohibits police or the government from illegally searching the property of citizens of the United States.  Thousands of cases have been written by the Supreme Court of the United States and every other court in America holding that before police can search an automobile without a warrant, they must first have probable cause to believe that evidence of a crime is contained therein.  

Probable cause can be established in many ways.  The most common are that police state that the occupants of the vehicle or the vehicle itself smelled like marijuana - hence they have probable cause to believe drugs are in the car.  In other cases they may be merely suspicious that the person or passengers are up to no good and they will try and establish probable cause other ways (such as getting passengers stories to contradict each other or calling a drug dog at the scene to sniff the car).  Police are constantly trying to think of new and inventive ways to establish that they have probable cause to search a vehicle.

Experienced drug defense lawyers such as myself have spent our entire careers fighting these illegal searches often with great success.  Police will make mistakes and when they do it is a good criminla lawyer that catches them.  

You should try and get a free consultation with an experience drug defense lawyer and discuss your case with them.  They can determine if the search in your case is illegal and tell you what steps can be taken to get such a case dismissed.

Best Regards,

David West

Attorney at Law


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