Traffic stops can go from bad to worse if your car is searched

It’s an all-too familiar experience for many people: They are driving down the road and suddenly they see the red and blue lights flashing in the rear view mirror. Whether you know why you’re being pulled over or not, you can immediately experience fear, confusion and, in some cases, anger.

At best, a traffic stop can turn out to be inconvenient, or you might just drive away with a ticket to pay. However, in more serious situations, you could end up in jail and facing criminal charges. If this last scenario sounds familiar, it can be crucial that you work with an attorney to scrutinize the events that took place between the traffic stop and the arrest to identify any potential violations of your rights.

For instance, if your car was illegally searched during a traffic stop, anything that was uncovered in that search can be thrown out. If that happens the charges against you could ultimately be dismissed.

While state and federal search procedures are varied, complex and specific, basically speaking, your vehicle can be searched in three situations:

  1. You consent to the search
  2. The police obtain a warrant for the search
  3. An officer has reason to believe you are concealing an illegal or dangerous item, including drugs

These restrictions may make sense in writing, but they can be very confusing when a traffic stop is actually being conducted. Further, there are limitations and specifications with which officers need to comply that motorists may not know about which can raise some serious questions after a person has been arrested. This could lead to allegations of unlawful search and seizure and potentially a dismissal of charges.

Considering the fact that your future and your freedom could be on the line if you are arrested after a traffic stop, it is crucial that you and your defense attorney closely examine the elements of the stop, a search and your arrest.

Source:, “Police Traffic Stops and Vehicle Searches: FAQs,” accessed on May 9, 2016