Let’s say you’re driving along an Illinois highway, and a police car comes up behind you and flashes lights to pull you over in a traffic stop. You pull to a stop on the side of the road, roll your window down, and prepare to show the officer your driver’s license and vehicle registration card. The next thing you know, the officer asks you to step out of your car and then asks if you’d mind if he or she took a look inside your vehicle.
Do you know your rights, especially those pertaining to search and seizure? Police officers cannot do and say whatever they want when they pull you over. In fact, if the officer asked you to exit your vehicle, it is likely he or she suspects you of a crime, such as drunk driving. The more you know about your personal rights, the better, including the right you have to request legal representation before answering investigation questions. As for searching your car or person, there are a few things you should know.
Reasonable is a keyword in such situations
To make a traffic stop, a police officer must have reasonable cause. To arrest you for suspected DUI, there must be probable cause. To search your vehicle or person or take anything in your possession into police custody, the following issues may apply:
- When a police officer requests a search warrant from the court, he or she must show probable cause that you have committed a crime to substantiate the need for the warrant.
- The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects you against unreasonable search and seizure.
- There are exceptions to the need for a warrant. In some circumstances, investigating officers may conduct searches without warrants, such as if they see open liquor bottles through your window, lying on the floor of your car.
- If you have a legitimate reason to expect privacy in a particular situation, then police may not invade your privacy.
- Society at large must typically agree that the situation would be one where a person should expect privacy.
You may challenge any evidence prosecutors present after filing charges against you, if you believe they gathered the evidence under circumstances that violated your rights. In fact, sometimes, a judge will dismiss an entire case if there is lack of valid evidence. Other times, the court may rule that a portion of evidence is inadmissible. Such issues are often key factors in avoiding conviction.