You’re probably familiar with arrest warrants, bench warrants and search warrants. But if you were pulled over for driving under the influence (DUI) or if a routine traffic stop turned into a DUI arrest and a vehicle search, you may be wondering, “Can the police perform a warrantless vehicle search when I’m suspected of DUI? Is that legal?”
In some cases, a routine traffic stop or a DUI stop will lead to the cops searching the suspect’s vehicle. In these situations, the cops may find an open container of alcohol, illegal drugs, stolen goods, or weapons. But are these searches legal? It depends on the circumstances and whether the cops performed a legal warrantless search and seizure.
When Can the Police Search My Vehicle?
As a general rule, law enforcement is not supposed to conduct warrantless search and seizures. However, there are exceptions and for good reason. Traffic stops for example, are dangerous for cops and they can lead to volatile, if not deadly events. For this reason, there are specific circumstances where the police can search a vehicle to ensure the suspect does not have any contraband or worse, weapons that can be used against the police.
Some of the common exceptions to the warrant requirement, which could apply to a DUI:
- The DUI suspect voluntarily gives his or her consent to the cops to search their vehicle.
- If something, such as drugs, alcohol, weapons, or contraband is in plain view of the officers conducting the DUI stop, they can search the DUI suspect’s vehicle if they reasonably believe it’s connected to the DUI or criminal activity. For example, let’s say that while a driver is fumbling through their glovebox, a baggie of ecstasy falls out and the cop sees it. In this situation, the cops can immediately conduct a search of the vehicle and arrest the driver on suspicion of drug possession, in addition to DUI if it applies.
- If the driver is arrested for DUI, the officers can search the suspect, specifically for weapons or destructible evidence and the police can search the suspect’s vehicle after the arrest, if they have probable cause to believe the vehicle contains evidence related to the arrest.
Were you arrested for DUI in Orange County? Do you have reason to believe the police conducted an illegal search of your vehicle? To discuss your case for free, contact the Law Offices of Virginia L. Landry, Inc. today!