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Can the Police Search My Car After a DUI Arrest?

For the average person without a legal background, it can be hard to understand their rights when it comes to warrantless arrests, searches and seizures. Often, a routine traffic stop will go downhill and the driver will be arrested for driving on a suspended license, or they’ll be arrested because they’re subject to an active warrant. Other times, the driver will be pulled over for a traffic infraction, but they’ll end up being arrested for driving under the influence (DUI) of drugs or alcohol.

Sometimes, a driver will be arrested for DUI then the police will search the driver’s vehicle. While the cops are searching the vehicle, they’ll find drugs without a valid prescription, an open container of alcohol, drug paraphernalia, illegal drugs, or an unregistered firearm.

Other times, the driver is on probation or parole and they’ll have a weapon in their vehicle when they are a “prohibited possessor.” In other words, a DUI arrest was followed by a warrantless search and seizure and the suspect ended up facing additional criminal charges because of what the police found in their vehicle. Is this legal? Can the cops search a DUI suspect’s vehicle without their permission and without a warrant?

Searches That are ‘Incident’ to an Arrest

The police can perform a warrantless search of a DUI suspect’s vehicle after a lawful arrest. Under the law, an officer can search the area that is under a suspect’s immediate control after the person has been placed under arrest. This often includes a purse, a backpack, or the suspect’s vehicle. In the course of searching the arrestee’s vehicle, the police officer can take any property from the arrestee that may be: 1) connected to a crime, or 2) required as evidence in the criminal investigation.

“Can the police search my vehicle hours after my DUI arrest?” Law enforcement can conduct a search incident to an arrest hours after the arrest itself. While six hours after the DUI arrest may be well-within an acceptable timeframe, a search that’s done the following day may be too remote to count as a search that’s incident to an arrest.

Facing DUI charges in Orange County, and additional charges because of what turned up in a search of your vehicle? If so, contact the Law Offices of Virginia L. Landry, Inc. for a free case evaluation!