Vehicle search legality an important issue in criminal defense

There are a variety of ways and settings in which criminal suspects can be busted for dealing in drugs. One common context in which an individual may be busted is a traffic stop. In many cases, drug busts happen in connection with vehicle searches.

Vehicle searches in the context of drug investigations often happen when an officer witnesses a driver violating traffic rules and stops to check things out. This is what happened to a teen in Fort Walton Beach last month. In that case, officers issued a citation for a traffic infraction and then obtained the driver's consent to search the vehicle. Upon searching, they found marijuana and drug paraphernalia.

Traffic infractions are not always the occasion for a vehicle search, though. In another case, earlier this week, officers in Mary Esther cited a man for drug charges after noticing three men sitting in a car in a mall parking lot. After obtaining permission to search the vehicle, officers found drug paraphernalia and methamphetamine.

It is interesting that, in both of these cases, the defendants consented to a vehicle search. As some readers may know, there is no obligation for a criminal suspect to give an officer permission to conduct a search, whether of their person, house, or vehicle. Once consent is given, though, it opens up the door for police to expand their investigation well beyond its original grounds, whatever that may have been.

In our next post, we'll look at the issue of vehicle searches and some of the issues that should be considered when building a criminal defense case.

Sources:, "Man facing drug charges after sitting in car at mall at 2 a.m.," Sep. 2, 2015., "Teen facing drug charges after traffic stop," Aug. 20, 2015.

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