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Your rights when arrested for a drug crime in a traffic stop

Simply being pulled over by a police officer can be a daunting experience. A search and seizure that results in an arrest for a drug crime is even more frightening. In spite of the stress involved in the experience, if a person is arrested during a traffic stop, it is important to try and remain calm, be polite and pay attention to what is being said and done. Everyone has certain legal rights and everything the officer does must be done properly.

In the simplest scenario, officers may ask a driver whether they can search a car. However, a person does not have to consent to such a search. The protection from "unreasonable" search and seizure is guaranteed by the 4th Amendment of the Constitution. Without any justification, officers cannot search the car simply because a driver declines to provide consent.

However, vehicle searches can sometimes fall under an exception that might allow a search without consent. If a driver does not consent to a search, then the officer has to prove that she had reasonable suspicion to search your vehicle without a warrant, or the police must obtain a search warrant from a judge.

The propriety of a search and seizure -- particularly one based upon "reasonable suspicion" -- is usually decided at an evidentiary hearing before the trial. If the search of a vehicle was not conducted properly, any evidence obtained from the search, such as narcotics, can be thrown out. This could result in any drug charges against the accused being dropped.

People facing drug charges after a traffic stop and search may have questions about whether the search was proper. Consulting with an experienced defense attorney can be helpful in determining if the police acted appropriately during a traffic stop. If the attorney finds likely police misconduct, the search could be challenged and the evidence ruled out.

Source:, "Police Traffic Stops and Vehicle Searches: FAQs," accessed on Dec. 1, 2017

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State College, PA 16801

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