Can The Police Legally Search Your Car?

Maybe the police suspect that you are driving while intoxicated. Or, you consented to a search, and an officer discovered potentially incriminating evidence against you. No matter the situation, Indiana drivers should know their rights. When you’re stopped by a police officer while in traffic, knowing federal and state laws for search and seizure can help you defend your rights. Our attorneys at Tanzillo Stassin & Babcock, P.C. can review your case at a consultation. 

What Is Search and Seizure?

Search and seizure is a legal term referring to an examination of someone’s property by a law officer. A search and seizure is completed to gather evidence when authorities believe that an individual may have committed a crime. Laws restrict when and how a search and seizure can be done. 

An officer demanding to search your vehicle without explanation can be understandably frightening. You should discuss the incident with an attorney to discern whether your rights may have been violated.   

Vehicle Searches in Indiana: What’s Legal?

Many people turn to our attorneys at Tanzillo Stassin & Babcock with questions about Indiana’s search and seizure laws. No matter the reason they were stopped, there are plenty of questions regarding the search’s legality and if evidence gathered in the search can be suppressed. 

In most cases, police must acquire a warrant to search a person or property. However, there are certain exceptions to be aware of, including the plain view exception and its extension, the plain smell exception. This provision grants officers reasonable cause to believe you possess marijuana if they smell it, which allows them to search your vehicle for containers of marijuana. Additionally, if the officer finds evidence of another possible crime that is visible during the search, that evidence may also be used. 

It isn’t unusual for law enforcement to include in the police report that they smelled burnt or raw marijuana based on their training and used that to search the vehicle. Whether the smell was truly obvious is a problem that the court would need to address in a suppression hearing. 

Contenting to Vehicle Searches

Officers can also search a car for marijuana and other drugs is by receiving consent from the driver. The officer can request to search the vehicle if the driver is already stopped for a traffic violation. Even if the driver grants consent, he or she may still refuse consent to search the trunk or a closed box. This refusal is not grounds for the officer to obtain a warrant. Furthermore, if the person is in custody, the officer needs to inform that individual of their Pirtle Rights, which state that consent is voluntary and that they have a right to an attorney. 

Contact a Dyer Criminal Defense Attorney Today

In Indiana, there are certain laws outlining vehicular search and seizure, and it’s important to understand how these laws impact your rights if you are pulled over for a search. If you recently underwent a search and seizure, call an attorney at the soonest opportunity. Tanzillo Stassin & Babcock, P.C. are available for an initial consultation to discuss your case.