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Can police search you for drugs during a traffic stop?

On Behalf of | Feb 28, 2022 | Criminal Defense |

Knowing your rights means that you can apply them during an encounter with police officers. Many people become so nervous when dealing with authority figures that they don’t assert themselves.

While being respectful and following directions can lead to a less stressful encounter with the police, you are protected from self-incrimination and have a right to remain silent. Often, when an officer doesn’t have justification to arrest someone, they may start fishing for evidence, especially if they suspect drug crimes.

Do you have to let an officer search your vehicle or your person for drugs during a traffic stop?

Police officers need to suspect a weapon to search your person

The standard of evidence required to bodily search or frisk somebody is quite specific during a traffic stop. Only if a police officer suspects that you have a weapon on your person can they search you without your consent during a traffic stop. Even if they suspect you of possessing drugs, that suspicion is not a justification to search your person.

Police officers need probable cause to search a vehicle

The reason a police officer asks for permission to search your car is that they need it in most cases. Unless they have probable cause to suspect a specific crime, they cannot go through your vehicle without your permission.

To establish probable cause, a police officer has to provide some kind of concrete information that led to their suspicions. Smelling drugs or spotting what looks like a weapon in the vehicle might justify a search.

Without probable cause or permission, any evidence gathered during a search may not hold up in court.  Police officers know these limitations and will often try to trick you into waiving your rights so they can do more than they would otherwise be able to legally justify.

Gaining a further understanding of your rights as well as seeking the guidance of an experienced attorney in California will help you to defend drug charges.