What constitute an illegal search of a car?

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What constitute an illegal search of a car?

I was pulled over for a busted tail light. I had no insurance so the cop said that he was going to write me up for that. A K-9 unit pulled up and the cop asked everybody to get out of the vehicle. He found an open container that belonged to a person of legal drinking age and they admitted it was theirs. The cop brought the dog out and pointed to places for it to sniff and it scratched at the back door of my car. The 2 cops searched my car and found marijuana. They never asked or said anything about searching my car or bringing the dog out. They also never wrote me any citation or ticket for anything.

Asked on September 28, 2010 under Criminal Law, Iowa

Answers:

M.T.G., Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

Illegal searches are governed under your Fourth Amendment right to be "secure" in their persons.  In the absence of consent to a search, an officer must have probable cause to believe that a crime has been, is being or will be committed.  Now, there are a few "rules" that go along with the "probable cause" issue.  Plain sight rule, where the officer observed something in the car that is fair game, and the "furtive gesture" rule which means that the officer observed actions within the car that give rise to a belief that there is something going on.  Smell can give rise to probable cause (alcohol or drug smell).  If the search is found to be illegal then the "fruits" of the search are no good either. Seek advice from an attorney in your area.  Good luck.


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