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Our Albuquerque Criminal Lawyer Discusses Vehicles Stops and Searches
03 Aug 2015

Our Albuquerque Criminal Lawyer Discusses Vehicles Stops and Searches

Albuquerque Criminal LawyerOne of the most common issues people talk to an Albuquerque criminal lawyer about involves vehicle stops and searches. While automobiles are protected by the Fourth Amendment, the type of privacy one can expect inside a vehicle is much different for a number of reasons.

Reasonable Suspicion

Police officers are authorized to stop a vehicle if there is “reasonable suspicion” that an offense has occurred. What constitutes reasonable suspicion is often heavily contested by an Albuquerque criminal lawyer as the courts are increasingly giving police more and more leeway when it comes to vehicle stops.

Search Authority

After making a vehicle stop, officers are authorized to do certain things such as asking for a driver’s license, registration, and proof of insurance, checking the automobile’s VIN number, and shining a flashlight inside the vehicle if it is dark outside. When looking inside the vehicle, officers may seize contraband that is readily visible without obtaining a warrant first under what is known as the “plain view” doctrine.

Justifying a Search

Any unusual or sudden movements by the driver or passengers may justify the officer to perform a “Terry stop,” which is a pat-down of an individual’s outer clothing. An Albuquerque criminal lawyer may argue that this is unnecessary; however, courts generally allow officers to use wide discretion in determining if a pat-down is warranted.

Probable Cause

Law enforcement may also search a vehicle without a warrant if there is probable cause to believe that there is evidence of a crime inside the vehicle. They may also search any containers located within it. In this instance, an Albuquerque criminal lawyer will normally argue that the officer did not have probable cause to believe he or she would find evidence of a crime, and was therefore bound to obtain a warrant.

Search Incident to Lawful Arrest

A relatively new ruling by the Supreme Court has changed the way a search incident to a lawful arrest is conducted. In the past, police were permitted to search the entire passenger compartment along with any containers found inside it, even when an individual was arrested outside the vehicle and subsequently handcuffed. New rules now forbid officers to conduct such a search unless a suspect is unrestrained and within reaching distance of the passenger compartment. An exception is whenever evidence related to the crime is believed to be inside the automobile.

Reasonable Questioning

When stopped for a traffic violation, the ensuing detention must be reasonable with relationship to the alleged offense. This means that the officer may not unduly prolong a traffic stop or subject an individual to an unrelated line of questioning. When an officer unduly detains an individual, or subjects him or her to an unreasonable line of questioning, any evidence collected can often be suppressed in a court of law.

Victim of an Illegal Traffic Stop? Contact an Albuquerque Criminal Lawyer Today

If your rights have been violated during a traffic stop, contact an Albuquerque criminal lawyer from the Twohig Law Firm by calling (505) 898-0400.


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