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What rights apply if police want to search vehicles for drugs?

On Behalf of | Apr 8, 2024 | Criminal Defense

Drivers in Michigan typically hope to avoid encounters with law enforcement whenever possible. No one wants to see those flashing lights in their rearview mirror, as a traffic stop inevitably means delay and potentially means major expenses.

Police officers who pull someone over often intend to issue a traffic citation. However, sometimes they suspect someone of a more serious violation of the law. A police officer may want to conduct a search of someone’s vehicle during what started off as a basic traffic stop.

What rights does someone have when officers ask to go through their vehicle on the side of the road?

The protection of the Fourth Amendment

The Fourth Amendment is one of the most important Federal protections for individuals interacting with law enforcement or other state authorities. The Fourth Amendment specifically prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures.

Police officers must comply with the Fourth Amendment by meeting certain standards or getting permission to search private property. Often, officers try to trick people into permitting a search by casually asking if they can check someone’s vehicle. Without someone’s permission, a police officer must have probable cause or a warrant to search the vehicle.

Drivers have the right to refuse any search requests made by police officers without risking penalties. Unfortunately, police officers on the hunt for drugs may conduct a search under the assumption that they may find a justification for that decision during the search.

What if an officer searches anyway?

Some officers may search for drugs despite a driver refusing to grant them permission. If they did not have clear probable cause when they began the search, that could affect the state’s case if a prosecutor attempts to bring charges against the driver later.

The exclusionary rule gives a criminal defense attorney an opportunity to oppose the inclusion of certain evidence in criminal proceedings. So long as there’s proof that police officers broke the law or violated someone’s rights by conducting a search, a defense attorney can prevent the courts from hearing any evidence gathered during that illegal search.

Those arrested by police officers have the right to remain silent while in state custody and the right to consult with a lawyer about their charges. Those accused of drug offenses in Michigan often benefit from learning about their rights as they develop a criminal defense strategy. Ultimately, recognizing how police officers might violate the law and someone’s basic rights could benefit those who have had an unpleasant encounter with law enforcement professionals.