Law enforcement officers are allowed to ask to see a driver’s license and registration during a traffic stop. They are also permitted to conduct sobriety tests if they believe the driver is intoxicated. But, can the police search your vehicle during a DWI stop? Here’s what you need to know to protect your rights:
The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution
The Fourth Amendment protects people from unreasonable searches and seizures. Due to the Fourth Amendment, law enforcement officers usually cannot conduct a search without an authorized search warrant.
Police Searches During DWI Stops
There are several exceptions to the search warrant requirement that apply to DWI stops. First, the police can conduct a search of your vehicle as long as you have given consent. No warrant is needed if you approve the police officer’s search request.
There is also the “plain view exception,” which allows police officers to seize evidence that is in plain view. For example, let’s say an officer sees marijuana sitting on your passenger seat when he comes to your window during a DWI stop. He could seize the marijuana without a warrant and use it as evidence since it was in plain view.
Another exception to the search and seizure law applies specifically to cars. The “automobile exception” states that an officer can conduct a warrantless search of a vehicle if he has probable cause to believe that there is evidence of a crime inside the car. For example, let’s say an officer conducting a DWI stop has probable cause to believe that there are controlled substances within the car. In this case, the officer can conduct a warrantless search to look for this evidence that could prove the driver is intoxicated.
It’s important to note that although a warrant is not necessary in this situation, probable cause is still required. This means the police officer cannot conduct a search simply because he feels like it or has a hunch that there is evidence in your car. He must reasonably believe that there is evidence in your car based on the facts and circumstances in order to establish probable cause and conduct a warrantless search.
Have you been accused of DWI? The skilled criminal defense attorneys at The Missouri DWI & Criminal Law Center at the Benjamin Law Firm, LLC are here to help. We will defend your rights and fight for your future from the start to the finish of your case. Call our office at 816-322-8008, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or fill out our confidential online form to schedule a consultation today.