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Looking at the Fourth Amendment rules regarding motor vehicle stops, P.2

We’ve been looking in recent posts at the importance of exploring Fourth Amendment issues when building a strong criminal defense. Again, the Fourth Amendment requires that all searches and seizures are reasonable, and there are well-established rules which law enforcement is required to follow. Among these rules is that a motor vehicle stop must be supported by at least reasonable suspicion.

Reasonable mistakes of law or fact do not necessarily harm the integrity of a motor vehicle stop, provided an officer makes the mistake in good faith. In other words, an officer who stops a motorist because the officer reasonably believes the motorist to be in violation of the law is not acting illegally under the Fourth Amendment, even when the officer gets the law or the facts wrong. Assuming that the suspect is not detained for an unreasonable length of time to conduct the brief investigative stop, the next question in looking at the legality of traffic stops is whether any searches were conducted properly. 

We’ve been looking in recent posts at the importance of exploring Fourth Amendment issues when building a strong criminal defense. Again, the Fourth Amendment requires that all searches and seizures are reasonable, and there are well-established rules which law enforcement is required to follow. Among these rules is that a motor vehicle stop must be supported by at least reasonable suspicion.

Reasonable mistakes of law or fact do not necessarily harm the integrity of a motor vehicle stop, provided an officer makes the mistake in good faith. In other words, an officer who stops a motorist because the officer reasonably believes the motorist to be in violation of the law is not acting illegally under the Fourth Amendment, even when the officer gets the law or the facts wrong. Assuming that the suspect is not detained for an unreasonable length of time to conduct the brief investigative stop, the next question in looking at the legality of traffic stops is whether any searches were conducted properly.

The general rule with searches under the Fourth Amendment is that officers must have a warrant. There are, of course, certain well-established exceptions to this rule. These include searches:

  • Made under “exigent circumstances”
  • Incident to a lawful arrest
  • involving incriminating evidence left in plain site
  • to which proper and unrevoked consent is given

Whether or not a search is based on a warrant, there may also be limitations with what areas of a vehicle law enforcement is allowed to search.

Officers are supposed to be trained in following these well-established rules, but training is not always effective, officers may choose to ignore the rules, or they may simply make a mistake. Whenever privacy is at issue, though, it is important to get an experienced criminal defense attorney involved to protect one’s rights. 

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