People are protected from unlawful searches and seizure of their assets under the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution. Any type of illegal seizure of assets could negatively impact a person financially. Any type of unlawful vehicle search would violate a person’s right to privacy.
This is connected to the Fourth Amendment and provides drivers with less of an expectation for privacy in their automobile when compared to their residence. Law enforcement in Arizona is still not permitted to search each vehicle they stop for a traffic violation. They must be able to establish probable cause. However, there are situations when law enforcement officers in Arizona can legally search a person’s vehicle without the driver’s consent or search warrant.
This makes it necessary for law enforcement to have a reasonable belief that a crime may have occurred. This could involve drug possession, driving under the influence, and more. A traffic violation does not provide enough probable cause to search a vehicle. It could be a driver’s actions or the objects in a vehicle that could give Arizona law enforcement officers cause to search a vehicle. There are certain common reasons they can legally search a driver’s vehicle without a warrant or permission.
*Law enforcement officer reasonably believes that the search is necessary for their safety
*The officer has probable cause to believe there is evidence of a crime in the vehicle, such as illegal drugs or drug paraphernalia in plain sight, the odor of illegal drugs
*Drivers admitted or provided information about what is in their vehicle
*Statements from reliable witnesses
Once Arizona law enforcement has determined they have probable cause, they have the right to search a driver’s vehicle. To do so, they will first instruct the driver and other passengers in the vehicle to exit the vehicle. Typically they will be required to stand far away from the vehicle unless they have been placed under arrest for an unrelated charge. The vehicle search will cover the entire vehicle and any belongings discovered inside it. This includes items owned by the driver and the vehicle’s passengers. It could also involve using a K-9.
A driver can be stopped if there is a warrant for their arrest or because of a traffic violation. They may not have any friends or family members to come and take possession of the vehicle, or there may be no safe place the vehicle can be legally parked. In this situation, law enforcement officers have no choice but to tow the vehicle to an impound lot. Law enforcement officers will perform an inventory of items in the vehicle to minimize the chance of legal trouble if an angry driver believes items from their vehicle are missing. Should law enforcement officers discover illegal contraband in the vehicle, it can be taken and used as evidence against the driver in court.
There are instances when a vehicle search and property seizure conducted by law enforcement are illegal. If this happens, a criminal lawyer will file a Motion to Suppress with the court because their client’s Fourth Amendment rights have been violated. There are three things a judge will consider for determining if a vehicle search by law enforcement was legal.
*If the nature of the paraphernalia or drugs discovered is incriminating. A vehicle can’t be legally searched if an object does not indicate a crime.
*A law enforcement officer must have a valid reason to stop a vehicle. If not, they could be considered to not be legally present.
*Law enforcement must have legal access to the paraphernalia or drugs. Should these items have not been in plain sight, the vehicle did not have the odor of an illegal drug, or no consent has been given for a search, law enforcement may not have a legal reason to search the driver’s vehicle.
Under the law, there is no legal punishment associated with a driver refusing to give law enforcement consent to search their vehicle. Law enforcement officers have been known to try and bully a driver into giving them permission. It is important for a driver to know their rights and remain firm. This is an indication law enforcement does not have probable cause to search the vehicle.
Anyone who is facing a felony drug charge in Arizona, after law enforcement searched their vehicle, needs to speak with criminal lawyer Robert A. Dodell, Attorney At Law as soon as possible. This legal professional understands facing criminal charges is challenging. Robert A. Dodell, Attorney at Law will know how to discuss the circumstances of the arrest and determine the best possible legal defense.