In most situations, the police are required to have a warrant to search you, your home, or your vehicle. However, you can be searched in some cases where the police do not have a warrant as well. This is very common after rountine motor vehicle stops. When the police conduct a search of your vehicle after pulling you over for a traffic offense, they may find enough evidence to charge you with a crime. If you have been charged with cocaine possession, unlawful possession of a weapon, less than 50 grams of marijuana, heroin, or another offense after a car search in Morris County, New Jersey, here is what you need to know.
Are Police Able to Search My Car in Morristown?
The police can search your vehicle without a warrant under three general circumstances. The first is where you provide consent to the search. The officer may specifically ask something, like, “Do you mind if I search your vehicle?” If you give the officer permission, then he or she is welcome to search your car.
Police officers do not always phrase their request as a question so you may think that you do not have any choice in the search. But you never have to consent to a search. You can say no. However, many drivers think they have to because saying no seems like they have something to hide. You should not be afraid to say no—you have the right to be secure in your belongings in your vehicle.
Another situation where police can search your car is when they have probable cause for the search. Probable cause essentially means that the police have reason to believe that they will find evidence of a crime in your car.
The last situation where searches are permitted is when the vehicle is impounded or seized, such as situations where the driver is arrested for drunk driving. The police will inventory everything in the car as part of the impounding process.
Do they Need a Warrant to Search a Vehicle in Parsippany?
Police do not always need a warrant to conduct a search of a vehicle. As mentioned, a search can be valid if the officer has probable cause. The concept of probable cause is fairly broad, but it generally includes the “plain view” and “plain smell” rule. Probable cause must be more than just a hunch. For example, if the officer smells marijuana in the vehicle, that would give him or her probable cause to search the car for marijuana or drug paraphernalia. If you have something illegal laying the passenger seat, for instance, that would likely be enough to trigger a search as well.
Criminal Charges from Motor Vehicle Stop Searches in NJ
Anything that could be considered illegal that is found in your vehicle may result in criminal charges in New Jersey. For example, if you have things like unlicensed firearms or drug paraphernalia in your car, you may be charged with illegal possession of these things. This is true even if the reason that the police searched your vehicle was not specifically to find the results of the search. These items are illegal simply to possess in New Jersey and they are among the most common charges that arise from vehicle searches.
Officers could also find evidence of another crime in your car. For example, if the police pull you over because your car looks like one that was seen fleeing the scene of a bank robbery, and you have ski masks in the back, that could trigger enough reason to arrest you for the theft. Similarly, if they find property that has been reported as stolen recently, this can result in you being arrested for theft or receiving stolen property.
Arrested after Police Searched Your Car in Morris County?
Just because you have been charged with a crime after a car search doesn’t mean the charges will stand up in court. For instance, if the police find evidence of a crime in your vehicle but the search was not valid, that evidence could be thrown out. The experienced Morris County criminal defense lawyers at our firm can help you and your loved ones if you have been charged with a crime because of an invalid or illegal search. Even if the search was valid, we can ensure you consider all of your options to achieve the best result. Call our local office in Morristown at (908) 336-5008 today for a free consultation.