If an officer has stopped your vehicle in Indiana, there is a chance that he or she will search your vehicle for drugs or other contraband they believe is associated with criminal activity. If drugs or drug paraphernalia is found in your vehicle, the officer may charge you with a drug crime. However, not all vehicle searches are legal under the U.S. Constitution.
Under the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution, people in the United States are protected from unreasonable searches and seizures by law enforcement officers. Indiana officers who do not have a warrant must have probable cause to search a vehicle for potential evidence of a crime. Evidence acquired during an illegal search is referred to as ‘fruit of the poisonous tree’ and cannot be used against you in court.
When can an officer lawfully search my vehicle?
There are certain circumstances in which an officer is legally allowed to search your vehicle for drugs. Officers can search your vehicle if:
- The officer has a valid search warrant (i.e. the warrant must have been issued based on probable cause and specifies the area to be searched).
- You have consented to the search.
- The officer has probable cause to search your vehicle (i.e. the officer has a legitimate reason to believe your vehicle contains evidence of a crime).
- The officer reasonably believes there is a hidden weapon in your vehicle or something else that puts their life at risk.
The officer is also legally allowed to seize any evidence in ‘plain view,’ meaning that an officer can seize drugs or drug paraphernalia they lawfully observe during the course of the traffic stop.
Illegal searches and seizures of vehicles happen more than you think. If you have been charged with a drug crime, a criminal defense attorney in your area can review your case and ensure that no illegally obtained evidence is used against you in court.