Can a police officer search and sieze drugs from my car after pulling me over for a “broken license plate light” which wasn’t broken?

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Can a police officer search and sieze drugs from my car after pulling me over for a “broken license plate light” which wasn’t broken?

I was pulled over the other day and when the officer got to my car door he told me that my license plate light wasn’t making my license visible enough. He then proceeded to notice that the car smelled like pot, grabbed everyone in the car’s licenses, came back and reminded my friend of a small drog charge of his. He then told us that he was going to search the car and asked us to get out, where he then found drugs and paraphernalia. After the encounter we checked the license and it was fine. Was this an unlawful search and seizure or was it legal because I didn’t stop him from searching the car?

Asked on December 17, 2011 under Criminal Law, Minnesota

Answers:

FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

The problem that you have is that the police officer assuming he or she is telling the truth will write up in the report that you were stopped because of a tail light not working. Upon investigating the vehicle after the stop the smell the marijuana was detected necessitating a search of the vehicle where the contraband was found.

Your defense is that the tail light was fine and there was no basis for the stop. Given the circumstances that you have written about and the arrest, I suggest that you consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney about your situation. From what you have written, the search may have been illegal.


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