Most people try to mind their own business when driving on the roadway unless they see something dangerous happening. Of course, police officers have a duty to pay attention to drivers in order to stop illegal or dangerous behaviors. You may try to stay a safe driver because you would never want to hurt someone else, but that does not mean that you are immune to a traffic stop.
In fact, an officer may have recently pulled you over, and what you thought of as a routine stop ended with you in handcuffs. Unfortunately, traffic stops can lead to arrests if an officer believes that something unlawful has occurred. In your case, the officer may have conducted a search of your vehicle and found drugs or drug paraphernalia. As a result, you now face drug charges. However, you may wonder whether the officer had the right to search your vehicle.
Searching without a warrant
You may think that an officer must have a search warrant in order to search your vehicle, but that is not the case. Still, that does not mean that an officer can lawfully search a vehicle at any given time. In order to conduct a lawful search without a warrant, one of the following scenarios must apply:
- The officer had probable cause to believe that illegal activity was taking place, such as seeing illegal substances in plain view.
- The officer asked you if he or she could search your vehicle and you said yes.
- The officer believed that you had a weapon hidden in your vehicle or felt that other circumstances existed that put him or her at risk of harm.
- The officer placed you under arrest and then searched your vehicle for additional evidence.
If an officer searched your vehicle without your consent and without any of the other aforementioned circumstances applying, he or she may have subjected you to an unlawful search.
What does this mean for your case?
If you believe that the officer searched your vehicle without cause or permission, that information could play a major role in your case. In fact, if your arrest occurred only after an officer illegally searched your vehicle and found evidence, the court may deem that evidence inadmissible and could drop the charges against you. Of course, each case is different, and you may want to go over the details of your traffic stop, search and arrest with a knowledgeable Maryland attorney who can determine whether the officer violated your rights.