Last week in Ohio, two Michigan women were stopped by State Troopers for a traffic violation and ended up being arrested for felony drug charges. According to a report by an NBC affiliate, the two women, aged 23 and 26, were driving on U.S. 23 just past 9 p.m. when a State Trooper pulled them over. According to the State Trooper, there was a smell of burning marijuana coming from the car’s cabin when he approached the car.
The Trooper used the smell of marijuana to justify a search of the vehicle’s passenger compartment which revealed a half a kilo of heroin, 4,500 Oxycodone pills, and 270 Oxymorphone pills. The drugs were all found in a duffle bag. The two women were then charged with possession of a Schedule II Substance, possession of heroin, and drug trafficking.
When Can a Police Officer Search a Car?
The United States Constitution provides drivers some protections in the privacy of their automobiles. Police officers cannot go about searching every car they pull over; they need to have a reasonable belief that a crime is occurring, was about to occur, or has recently occurred. Generally, the police officer will have to point to specific facts that gave rise to his or her suspicion that there was a crime.
In the situation described above, the State Trooper alleged that he smelled burnt marijuana. Because possession of marijuana is a crime, that provided the officer justification to search the car.
You Do Not Need to Consent to a Vehicle Search
One common misconception among drivers is that it is always better to allow an officer to search your car because, even if the officer is denied permission, they can search the vehicle anyways. This is not necessarily true. If an officer cannot justify a search of the vehicle, he may still attempt to get the driver to provide permission to search. An officer is allowed to lie to or mislead a driver when attempting to get permission to search. In other words, an officer is not bound by a promise of leniency if the driver allows the search. So don’t fall for the “nice guy” approach, because you may end up with the same charges either way. Legally speaking, you cannot be punished by exercising your right to privacy and refusing to consent to a vehicle search.
With that said, once the officer announces that he has cause to search the vehicle, the driver should allow the officer to search without objection.
Have You Been Arrested Following a Traffic Stop?
If you have been arrested based on contraband that an officer found while searching your vehicle after a routine traffic stop, you may be able to suppress the evidence of the search. To find out what options you may have, you should speak to an experienced Michigan criminal defense attorney immediately. The longer your attorney has to prepare your defense, the better it will stand up against the prosecution’s story. Click Contact us online, or call (248) 266-8720 to schedule an initial consultation with an attorney today.