Can an officer at a DUI checkpoint open your door after your consent to step out of the vehicle and shine a light under the seat?

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Can an officer at a DUI checkpoint open your door after your consent to step out of the vehicle and shine a light under the seat?

There were no signs of visible intoxication, no suspicious behavior, and was completely compliant with officers every request.

Asked on August 23, 2012 under Criminal Law, Pennsylvania

Answers:

Andrew Goldberg

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

Great question, no easy answer. The offficeers do not nedd any "reasonable suspiciion" if thhe contraband is in plain view (i.e., the Plain veiw doctrie ). So, here there are actually 2 arguments that the contraband was not observed in plain view. First, the officers had to use a flashlight to look under the seat. Second, that tthe officers had to look under the seat. Thhere is a Pennsylvania case where officers shone a flashlight through a window, while the door was closed, and saw the drugs. Despite the use of the flashlight, the Court held the search was in plain vieew and, therefore, constitutional. In your case, you have te added fact that the officer had to look unddr the seat. I'd be discussing the filing a Motion to Suppress in the Court of Common Pleas arguing the search under the seat was unlawful. Great, interesting case.


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