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What Gives the Police Probable Cause to Search my Car?

When you get behind the wheel in Alabama, you want to understand the road rules and how to react if you encounter law enforcement. It is far better to understand your rights in advance of this encounter.
Criminal defense attorney Jason Darley has counseled countless individuals who’ve had their rights violated when they are behind the wheel. Let his criminal defense expertise work for you during an initial consultation.
For example, an officer pulls you over and begins searching your car. You don’t understand why and are reluctant to ask for fear of making him angry. But what are your rights?
Police will claim there was probable cause to search your car.
What is Probable Cause?

Probable cause means the officer had a reasonable belief that he would find evidence of a crime in your vehicle. That is his justification for pulling you over. 
It is generally subjective and can be widely interpreted to encompass almost anything – the car was weaving in and out of lanes or speeding, the taillights were out, he saw something thrown out of the car, there were suspected violations of window tint – all of the above might have made the officer suspicious that some illegal behavior was underway.
Speeding may not indicate criminal activity, but how the driver acts toward the officer when he is pulled over can justify a search based on probable cause. Be careful not to elevate an already heightened situation with any hostility, no matter how you feel it is warranted, even if the officer acts unprofessionally.  
The 4th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects citizens from unreasonable searches or seizures in their homes, so the officer must first obtain a search warrant. 

But in a vehicle, police can generally search your car without first obtaining a warrant.
The courts give police more leniency because there is a lower expectation of privacy when you are in a car. The probable cause standard is much lower than the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard required by the courts for a conviction. 
The officer pulling you over may order you out of the car and frisk you if he believes you are armed or if there are illegal drugs present. This is to protect himself. However, there are some situations that may mean your Fourth Amendment rights have not been violated when your car is searched.

  • If you give police permission to search your vehicle. The officer may do so without violating your rights.
  • If there is probable cause indicated by fleeing the scene.
  • If the officer believes there may be a threat to his life, such as a hidden weapon.
  • The officer on the scene may do a limited search for weapons to protect himself but may not make a more extensive search unless there is probable cause of a crime or he finds contraband in the vehicle.
  • If you have been arrested and the search is part of the arrest.
  • If you are belligerent or threaten the officer.
  • If your vehicle has been towed and impounded, even if it’s just for a parking violation. Law enforcement may consider this an inventory search, but it can’t be towed for the sole purpose of a search.
  • Your passenger may be exempt from a search unless there is a probable cause that involves them. 

Your Mobile Alabama Criminal Defense Attorney

Suppose you have had your vehicle searched in Alabama without a warrant and believe there was no probable cause. In that case, Alabama criminal defense attorney Jason Darley can offer you advice and guidance during an initial consultation. He can outline the limited situations where police can search your vehicle without a warrant or even your consent.

Mr. Darley has seen incidents when the vehicle is unlawfully searched, preventing the prosecutor from using any evidence obtained against you.

Reach out to criminal defense attorney Jason Darley at this time to challenge any illegally obtained evidence. If you believe your rights have been violated, challenging law enforcement and its actions can be one of the most effective strategies to reverse your charges. 

You can contact attorney Darley at his Mobile, AL office to help you explore your options. Call (251) 732-7058.

Sources:

Findlaw
https://www.findlaw.com/criminal/criminal-rights/can-the-police-legitimately-search-my-vehicle-without-a-warrant.html#:~:text=The%20officer%20has%20probable%20cause,a%20search%20for%20illegal%20drugs).

https://www.findlaw.com/criminal/criminal-rights/illegal-search-and-seizure-faqs.html#Traffic


Al Statutes
https://judicial.alabama.gov/docs/library/rules/cr4_1.pdf

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