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What qualifies as lawful search and seizure in a car?

When the police pull you over—and you find yourself waiting for the officer to walk up to your window in a state of fear and stress—it’s easy to believe that officer has the power to do anything. However, it’s important to know that there are laws in place to protect you. The Fourth Amendment of the Constitution protects you from unlawful search and seizure.

There are only four lawful reasons for the police to search your vehicle

  • Probable cause. Law enforcement must have reason to suspect criminal activity, and, even then, they must weigh the danger to public safety against your Fourth Amendment rights to protection from unreasonable searches.
  • Valid search warrant.
  • Valid arrest warrant.
  • Your consent.

When they can obtain evidence without meeting these requirements

The exception to search laws is when the evidence is in plain sight. Law enforcement can collect incriminating evidence from your dashboard or the front seat, and the evidence will be admissible in a courtroom.

What if I am the subject of an illegal search?

If law enforcement violates your Fourth Amendment rights, your defense attorney can argue that any evidence obtained during the search is inadmissible due to unlawful search and seizure. If, say, the police found drugs in your car but violated search laws to do so, it’s possible that this misstep on the part of the police could grant you the upper hand in your case.