Police searches of vehicles: can they do that? P.2

In our last post, we began discussing the issue of police searches of vehicles, and the general limits officers have in conducting these searches. This topic is important in criminal defense where police interact with suspects in vehicles. As we've noted, searches generally require warrants, but there are exceptions. Here we'll take a look at several situations where a warrant is not required.

Police may search a vehicle incident to arrest only if the arrestee is within reaching a distance of the passenger compartment at the time of the search, or it is reasonable to believe that the vehicle contains evidence of the offense of arrest.

Police may conduct a warrantless search without probable cause if an authorized person or a person with apparent authority has consented to the search. A person granting consent to search may limit the scope of the consent or later withdraw the consent.

If police are lawfully in a position to observe an object in "plain view," and they have probable cause to believe that the object is contraband or evidence of criminality, they may seize it without a warrant.

If during a valid vehicle stop police have reasonable suspicion that a person may be armed, they may conduct a protective sweep for weapons of the vehicle's passenger compartment.

If the police have probable cause to search a vehicle or a container within the vehicle, a warrantless search may be made of the vehicle and any containers contained in the vehicle which are likely to conceal the object of the search.

In our next post, we'll look at what action a defendant can take when they are charged with a crime supported by evidence uncovered by an illegal search.


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