Seeing the flashing lights and hearing the siren of a police car behind you while on the road is always scary. In the best cases, these traffic stops are very brief and only involve a short conversation. In other instances, though, the stop may become much more serious, and the officer may at some point tell the driver they want to search the vehicle. If you find yourself in this situation, it is critical that you know what to do and that you understand how to protect your rights. Your Jacksonville criminal defense lawyer can assist you with any illegal search and seizure that you may be subjected to.
Vehicle Searches Under the Fourth Amendment
The Fourth Amendment protects all American citizens from unlawful search and seizures. Before law enforcement searches any property, they must obtain a search warrant to do so. That protection applies to vehicles as well, but drivers may have fewer rights when an officer wants to search their vehicle. The law recognizes that drivers could easily leave the scene if the police officer had to obtain a warrant before searching the vehicle. As such, police officers must only have probable cause to search a vehicle during a traffic stop, and they do not need to obtain a warrant.
Florida law largely mirrors the Fourth Amendment and requires police officers to have probable cause before searching a vehicle during a roadside stop. Regardless of the situation, it is critical that you know what to do during a traffic stop so you can protect your rights.
What to Do if Police Want to Search Your Vehicle
Law enforcement officers often want to search a vehicle, but they may not have probable cause to do so. When this is the case, they may ask for your consent to search the vehicle. Never provide this consent. If you agree to the police searching your vehicle, it is then a lawful search and any evidence that is obtained during the search can be used against you.
You should also always produce documents such as your driver’s license, insurance policy, and registration when law enforcement asks for them. However, do not provide any more information than that. The officer may ask if you have been drinking or if you have consumed drugs. Simply ask the officer if you are under arrest and do not provide them any more information. You are not legally required to any answer any of the officer’s questions and if you do, anything you say can be used against you. Contact your Jacksonville criminal defense lawyer as soon after the stop as is feasible to receive further advice.
Our Criminal Defense Lawyer in Jacksonville Can Help After an Unlawful Search
If you have been charged with a crime after a search you believe was illegal, your Jacksonville criminal defense attorney can help. Our skilled attorneys know how to prove a search is unlawful and get any evidence obtained as a result thrown out of court.
About the Author
B. Elaine Jones is a licensed Florida attorney who has been practicing family law, guardianship law and criminal law for over 25 years in Florida. Ms. Jones is an associate with the Law Office of David M. Goldman in Jacksonville, Florida. Ms. Jones previously had a solo practitioner firm in Hillsborough County and joined Attorney Goldman’s firm in November of 2020. You can contact Ms. Jones at the Law Office of David M. Goldman for a free initial consultation in most cases.