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Warrantless Search Of A Vehicle: Is it Legal?

Warrantless Search Of A Vehicle: Is it Legal?

If an officer has probable cause to believe drugs are in a vehicle and exigent circumstances exist, he can search without a warrant. This exception to the warrant requirement is provided due to the possibility that the vehicle could be moved or evidence destroyed during the time it would take for a warrant to be obtained. There is less privacy with a vehicle than a home.

Police can also conduct an inventory search of a vehicle that was legitimately impounded by the Police without a warrant. The purpose of the inventory search is for the officer to take an inventory of all the items in the vehicle to protect the Police from claims of loss or theft by the arrestee. To be a valid inventory search, the State must prove that nobody else could take possession of the vehicle. Impoundment must be reasonable.

The Fourth Amendment

Currently, the Fourth Amendment offers protection to residents in the U.S. from cases of unlawful search and seizure. This is done in a bid to prevent the Police from undergoing arbitrary vehicle searches and violating the rights of a person. If your vehicle is searched without a warrant, probable cause doesn’t exist or your permission isn’t given, that is a clear violation of your rights. You can try to suppress the evidence. 

This is one reason that we advise people not to talk to the Police without their criminal defense attorney in Baton Rouge around. You may end up incriminating yourself. When a criminal attorney in Baton Rouge is contacted, it is quite easy to find out loopholes that can be used to your advantage.

This doesn’t mean that there aren’t a few cases that the Police are allowed to search your vehicle without getting your consent or having a warrant.

The leeway that the law gives the Police when searching a vehicle is more than the one given to a case when a house is searched. Before a house is searched, a warrant must be obtained unless an exception to the warrant requirement exists.

Why is this so? The courts see that when a person leaves his or home in a car, he or she has less expectation of privacy than in a home. This is one reason some cases, cars can be searched without the need for a search warrant or consent.

This can’t be said to be the same when you are at home. Consent or search warrant must be present before an apartment is searched. If not, a drug attorney may be able to show that the evidence was obtained in an illegal manner.

In Louisiana, the only time a car can be searched legally is if consent is given or a warrant or a probable cause is present. If not, your criminal defense attorney in Baton Rouge may be able to show that it was an illegal search.

When are Police Allowed to Do a Warrantless Search?

Like earlier said, not every search done by the Police must be done with a warrant present. The Supreme Court allows the Police to carry out the warrantless searches as long as the search was done under reasonable situations. We have listed out what cases the Police are allowed to search your car without a warrant. If the Police search your car without any of the following in place, a good criminal attorney can use it to his client’s advantage.

You must have given the Police the needed consent

If the officer doesn’t have a warrant and wants to search the car, the officer can decide to ask for your consent. You can decide to grant the consent or not. If you don’t grant the consent, and the officer doesn’t have a warrant or probable cause, searching the vehicle may be illegal. You can bring that up with your criminal defense attorney in Baton Rouge. It can be used to your advantage. If you give consent, it is likely the search is going to be legal.

Probable Cause Search of Vehicle

The law allows an officer to search a vehicle when he thinks that the evidence of a crime is in the car. It must be reasonable that there is a crime hidden in the car. In this case, he should believe that there is a drug or hidden weapon in the vehicle. If the drug is seen thereafter a search for a hidden weapon was done, it is still a crime.

Inventory Search of Your Vehicle

If you have been arrested for something related to drugs, your car can be searched before being towed to take an inventory of the belongings. The Police have the right to search your car when you have been arrested for anything and they are towing it. If you are out on probation, the police can decide to search your car whenever he or she spots you. If you are currently being investigated for drugs, your car can also be searched. It is important to note that there is little or no privacy when you are out of your house. The same rights of privacy that you would get when at home are different from the rights that you would get when you are in your vehicle. A custom officer has the right to search your vehicle at the border, without having any reason for it. This is because it is within his jurisdiction. A Police officer can’t do the same. A search can be done only when there is reason for it, or it could come with repercussions.

If there is proof that the person has violated the traffic law, then the vehicle that has the person can be searched

It depends on the level of traffic law that was violated. If it is a minor traffic offense such as speeding, the officer may not search the car, if there is no other reason added to it.  If the officer claims to smell marijuana, he can search the vehicle.

If you have a drug charge and need a drug crime defense attorney in Louisiana, contact us.  We handle drug charges anywhere in Louisiana.

Answers to Drug Charge Questions

Carl Barkemeyer wrote the published book titled How to Defend Drug Charges in Louisiana. He regularly gives lectures and advice to other attorneys regarding how to successfully defend clients for drug possession and distribution.


Louisiana DWI & Criminal Lawyers

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Louisiana criminal lawyers and DWI attorneys at the Barkemeyer Law Firm providing legal defense services for clients in Baton Rouge, Ascension, Livingston, Tangipahoa, Port Allen, Alexandria, New Orleans, Lafayette, Metairie, Kenner, Gretna, Hahnville, Chalmette, Slidell, St. Tammany, St. Charles, St. John, St. Bernard, Mandeville, Covington, Shreveport, Bossier, Jefferson, Monroe, Lake Charles and all of Louisiana.

DISCLAIMER: The information on this website is not formal legal advice nor does it create an attorney-client relationship.

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