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Were You a Victim of an Illegal Search During a Traffic Stop?
In: Criminal Law0

Were You a Victim of an Illegal Search During a Traffic Stop?

Many criminal cases begin with a traffic stop. Police officers might pull over a driver suspected of speeding or another traffic violation, and they might end up searching the vehicle. If they find any contraband, such as unlawful drugs or firearms, they can place the driver under arrest. The driver might then face serious criminal charges for unlawful possession of the drugs or weapons.

While police regularly conduct vehicle searches, people still have the right against unreasonable search and seizure under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. If a police search violates this constitutional right, you might be able to challenge any criminal charges that result from the search. You need the right Fort Worth criminal defense attorney on your side as soon as possible.

Unlawful Searches

In order for police to lawfully search your vehicle, certain circumstances must exist. First, if officers can show probable cause to believe you committed a crime, and evidence of the crime might be in your vehicle, they can secure a search warrant. Officers can execute this warrant and perform a vehicle search.

Without a warrant, there are still ways officers can search your car. Warrantless searches do not violate Fourth Amendment rights in the following situations:

  • You consent to the search
  • The officer has the reasonable belief that a search is needed to protect themselves (for example, you have a weapon hidden)
  • The officer has probable cause to believe that your car holds evidence of a crime
  • The officer arrests you and searches for evidence relating to the arrest
  • Your car was impounded

If a search does not fit into one of the above categories, it was likely unlawful.

Pretextual Stops

Law enforcement officers do not have the right to stop anyone at any time for no reason. Instead, traffic stops must be based on the reasonable suspicion that a driver violated a law, including traffic regulations. If the officer does not have a valid reason for the initial traffic stop, any search that resulted from that stop might be unlawful.

Defending Against Your Charges

If the search that uncovered criminal evidence was unlawful, the judge should deem that illegally-obtained evidence inadmissible in court. Often, this can immensely help your defense. For instance, if a prosecutor bases drug possession charges on drugs found in your vehicle, and the drug evidence is inadmissible, the prosecutor has very little - if anything - to use to prove your charges beyond a reasonable doubt. In this situation, it is common for charges to be dropped.

Contact an Aggressive Fort Worth Criminal Defense Lawyer Right Away

Identifying whether a vehicle search was unlawful is a key part of the criminal defense process. You should have the help of a lawyer in Fort Worth who knows how to keep out illegal evidence from your case. To speak with attorney Kyle Whitaker and learn how we can help with your defense, please call 817-332-7703 or contact us online today.