Is being pulled over for a seatbelt violation probable cause for an officer to search the vehicle

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Is being pulled over for a seatbelt violation probable cause for an officer to search the vehicle

Was pulled over on a seatbelt violation
and found that I had a suspended
license for child support. once I was
put in handcuffs and in the back of the
police car having said noting, the
officers search my vehicle inside a
backpack they found a gram of marijuana
and a weed pipe and a few Flexerils
that belonged to my girlfriend who has
a prescription. now I’m being charged
with two misdemeanor possession charges
for the gram of marijuana and pipe and
one felony possession charge on the
Flexeril. First did they have the right
to search my vehicle when nothing was
being smoked or used in any way during
the time of pull over and second would
it be worth the effort in going to
trial?

Asked on February 28, 2017 under Criminal Law, Indiana

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

You were being taken away in handcuffs; that presumably means that, since it was your car, the car had to be secured. Officers may search a vehicle that is being secured to ensure that there is nothing dangerous or illicit in it. So based on what you have written, it appears that the search would have been legal.
If the drugs were found in your car, unless someone (e.g. your girlfriend) will come forward to "claim" some and say they are hers, you are unlikely to have a good defense.


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