Car trunk search and seizures

Probable Cause to Search a Vehicle
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For example, Officer J stops a vehicle because he believes the driver has the look of a drug dealer. After Officer J approaches the vehicle, he smells marijuana and orders the driver out of the car. Officer J then conducts a search and finds marijuana in the glove compartment. When a police officer engages in illegal activity to acquire evidence, it often creates a ripple effect where one piece of evidence leads to the discovery of another piece of evidence which leads to the discovery of a third piece of evidence, and so on.

Can a Cop Search My Trunk if He Smells Pot?

Courts will often bar all the pieces of evidence, all the ripples, from being used at the criminal trial to convict the defendant. We promise to aggressively look after the interest of the individuals and families we represent in Ogden, UT.

Warrantless Searches of Motor Vehicles

General Rule The general rule is that any law enforcement officer must have probable cause and a valid warrant before he conducts any search or seizure. Search After a Valid Arrest. If an individual is arrested, an officer can conduct a search of that person without a warrant. Search of Items in Plain Site. A police officer does not need a warrant to search items that are within plain site. Emergency Circumstances. Automobile Passenger Searches. Probation Searches.

Car Searches After Traffic Stops: Not Always Allowed | Nolo

Almost always there is a condition put on those individuals who are on probation that they will be subject to warrantless searches if law enforcement officers have reasonable suspicion to believe they are involved in criminal activity. Canine Dog Sniff Searches. Neither a warrant nor probable cause is needed for a drug sniffing dog to sniff around vehicles, luggage, or other belongings. However, different laws apply to more invasive canine searches, such as when a canine is inside your car. When does a Law Enforcement Officer Need a Warrant to Search A law enforcement officer needs a warrant to perform a search unless an exception exists see above for a list of several exceptions.

Officer lawfully stops Defendant on the street. After speaking with the Defendant, Officer has probable cause to believe Defendant is in possession of narcotics. Officer handcuffs Defendant and begins to search him. He accepted it and drove to his apartment on West Stevens. He carried the package into the apartment.

At a. Coleman at that point left the scene to get a search warrant. About p. George leave the apartment carrying a blue knapsack which appeared to be half full. At p. He entered Daza's apartment, stayed for about 10 minutes, and reappeared carrying a brown paper bag that looked full.

The officers noticed that the bag was the size of one of the wrapped marijuana packages sent from Hawaii. Acevedo walked to a silver Honda in the parking lot. He placed the bag in the trunk of the car and started to drive away. Fearing the loss of evidence, officers in a marked police car stopped him. They opened the trunk and the bag, and found marijuana. When Officer Coleman returned with a warrant, the apartment was searched and bags of marijuana were found there.

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We are here concerned, of course, only with what was discovered in the automobile. Respondent was charged in state court with possession of marijuana for sale, in violation of Cal. Health Safety Code Ann. He moved to suppress the marijuana found in the car. The motion was denied. He then pleaded guilty, but appealed the denial of the suppression motion. The California Court of Appeal, Fourth District, concluded that the marijuana found in the paper bag in the car's trunk should have been suppressed.

The court concluded that the officers had probable cause to believe that the paper bag contained drugs, but lacked probable cause to suspect that Acevedo's car, itself, otherwise contained contraband. Because the officers' probable cause was directed specifically at the bag, the court held that the case was controlled by United States v. Although the court agreed that the officers could seize the paper bag, it held that, under Chadwick , they could not open the bag without first obtaining a warrant for that purpose. The court then recognized "the anomalous nature" of the dichotomy between the rule in Chadwick and the rule in Ross.

That dichotomy dictates that, if there is probable cause to search a car, then the entire car — including any closed container found therein — may be searched without a warrant, but if there is probable cause only as to a container in the car, the container may be held, but not searched, until a warrant is obtained. The Supreme Court of California denied the State's petition for review. We granted certiorari, U. The Fourth Amendment protects the "right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures.

See Carroll v. See also Boyd v. In Carroll , this Court established an exception to the warrant requirement for moving vehicles, for it recognized. It therefore held that a warrantless search of an automobile based upon probable cause to believe that the vehicle contained evidence of crime in the light of an exigency arising out of the likely disappearance of the vehicle did not contravene the Warrant Clause of the Fourth Amendment. See id. The Court refined the exigency requirement in Chambers v. Maroney , U. The car search at issue in Chambers took place at the police station, where the vehicle was immobilized, some time after the driver had been arrested.

Seeing through walls

Given probable cause and exigent circumstances at the time the vehicle was first stopped, the Court held that the later warrantless search at the station passed constitutional muster. The validity of the later search derived from the ruling in Carroll that an immediate search without a warrant at the moment of seizure would have been permissible. See Chambers , U. The Court reasoned in Chambers that the police could search later whenever they could have searched earlier, had they so chosen.

Following Chambers , if the police have probable cause to justify a warrantless seizure of an automobile on a public roadway, they may conduct either an immediate or a delayed search of the vehicle. In United States v. The warrantless search of Ross' car occurred after an informant told the police that he had seen Ross complete a drug transaction using drugs stored in the trunk of his car. The police stopped the car, searched it, and discovered in the trunk a brown paper bag containing drugs. We decided that the search of Ross' car was not unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment: "The scope of a warrantless search based on probable cause is no narrower — and no broader — than the scope of a search authorized by a warrant supported by probable cause.

Thus, "[i]f probable cause justifies the search of a lawfully stopped vehicle, it justifies the search of every part of the vehicle and its contents that may conceal the object of the search. In Ross , therefore, we clarified the scope of the Carroll doctrine as properly including a "probing search" of compartments and containers within the automobile so long as the search is supported by probable cause.

In addition to this clarification, Ross distinguished the Carroll doctrine from the separate rule that governed the search of closed containers. See U. The Court had announced this separate rule, unique to luggage and other closed packages, bags, and containers, in United States v. In Chadwick , federal narcotics agents had probable cause to believe that a pound double-locked footlocker contained marijuana.

The agents tracked the locker as the defendants removed it from a train and carried it through the station to a waiting car. As soon as the defendants lifted the locker into the trunk of the car, the agents arrested them, seized the locker, and searched it. In this Court, the United States did not contend that the locker's brief contact with the automobile's trunk sufficed to make the Carroll doctrine applicable. Rather, the United States urged that the search of movable luggage could be considered analogous to the search of an automobile.

The Court rejected this argument because, it reasoned, a person expects more privacy in his luggage and personal effects than he does in his automobile. Moreover, it concluded that, as "may often not be the case when automobiles are seized," secure storage facilities are usually available when the police seize luggage. In Arkansas v. In Sanders , the police had probable cause to believe a suitcase contained marijuana. They watched as the defendant placed the suitcase in the trunk of a taxi and was driven away.

The police pursued the taxi for several blocks, stopped it, found the suitcase in the trunk, and searched it. Although the Court had applied the Carroll doctrine to searches of integral parts of the automobile itself, indeed, in Carroll , contraband whiskey was in the upholstery of the seats, see U. Again, the Sanders majority stressed the heightened privacy expectation in personal luggage, and concluded that the presence of luggage in an automobile did not diminish the owner's expectation of privacy in his personal items.

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California v. Carney , U. In Ross , the Court endeavored to distinguish between Carroll , which governed the Ross automobile search, and Chadwick , which governed the Sanders automobile search. It held that the Carroll doctrine covered searches of automobiles when the police had probable cause to search an entire vehicle, but that the Chadwick doctrine governed searches of luggage when the officers had probable cause to search only a container within the vehicle. Thus, in a Ross situation, the police could conduct a reasonable search under the Fourth Amendment without obtaining a warrant, whereas in a Sanders situation, the police had to obtain a warrant before they searched. See post , at Ross held that closed containers encountered by the police during a warrantless search of a car pursuant to the automobile exception could also be searched.

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