When is it legal for an officer to search through my vehicle?




Title: When is it Legal for an Officer to Search Through my Vehicle?
Description: The legality of a search incident to a traffic stop is wholly dependent on the circumstances surrounding the stop of the vehicle in the first place. In other words, an officer cannot search your vehicle simply because he pulled you over for a traffic infraction…
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The legality of a search incident to a traffic stop is wholly dependent on the circumstances surrounding the stop of the vehicle in the first place. In other words, an officer cannot search your vehicle simply because he pulled you over for a traffic infraction.

If, however, during the course of his normal traffic stop he develops what is called reasonable suspicion of criminal activity, he then is allowed to detain the driver beyond the scope of the traffic stop to further investigate any criminal activity that he believes is occurring.

Officers working drug interdiction on our interstates will typically call for a drug dog to come to the scene to conduct what is called a free air sniff of the vehicle. If the drug dog alerts to the odor of narcotics on the vehicle this gives the officer probable cause to conduct a full blown search of the vehicle to look for contraband or any illegal activity.

This reasonable suspicion to detain the driver beyond the scope of the traffic stop must be based off of articulable facts observed by the officer. It cannot be based off of a hunch or a guess that the driver is engaged in unlawful activity.