The operative words in the title of this article are “may be.” Even though a police officer may conduct a search of an Amherst driver’s vehicle without a search warrant, that does not necessarily mean it was done legally. Police officers may search a vehicle during a traffic stop, but only under certain circumstances will it be considered legal.
One way that officers can conduct a legal search of a vehicle is when the driver gives the officer his or her consent to do so. Many people will give an officer permission to search because the officer intimidates them in some way or the officer made the person feel guilty if he or she failed to give permission. It is important to remember that if an officer is asking permission to search, he or she probably does not have a legal justification for the search.
However, if an officer believes he or she has sufficient probable cause to believe a crime occurred, he or she will most likely not attempt to obtain consent before searching the vehicle. If the officer reasonably believes that his or her safety is at risk, a search may be conducted. On the other hand, if the officer places a driver under arrest, the officer may conduct a search of the vehicle as part of the arrest.
An Amherst resident may feel as though there is nothing that can be done once the search is conducted during a traffic stop, but that may not be the case. A thorough review of the circumstances surrounding the search could reveal that the officer may not have had legal grounds to conduct it without a warrant. If the court agrees, it may be possible to have any evidence obtained from that search inadmissible in any case brought against the driver, which could substantially affect the outcome of the case.