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Do Police Always Require a Warrant to Search Me or My Car?

If police have probable cause to search your car or clothing for weapons or other illegal items, they have the right to conduct certain types of searches without a warrant; if you get arrested because of a warrantless search, your lawyer may be able to get the charges dropped by proving that the police violated your rights.

The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution protects against unlawful search and seizure. In this context, seizure means arresting a person or confiscating their property. Federal and state laws and court decisions have elaborated on when it is and is not legal for police to search your person (which means your body and the clothing you are currently wearing), your residence, your vehicle, or your personal effects (which means your property in the immediate vicinity, such as your backpack or suitcase). It is almost impossible for the police to legally search your residence without a warrant, but for searches of vehicles or of your person, there are many more gray areas. The bad news is that police officers conduct numerous warrantless searches, only some of which are legal, but the good news is that you have the right to have the charges against you dismissed if the police were not within their rights to conduct the search. If you have been arrested because an officer found illegal items while searching your car without a warrant, contact the Atlanta criminal defense lawyers at Ghanayem & Rayasam.

Georgia Stop and Frisk Laws

If a police officer asks to do a “pat down” of your body to look for weapons, it is illegal to refuse or resist; this type of search is also called a “stop and frisk.” They can only touch certain areas of the body, and only outside the person’s clothing. It is also illegal to refuse pat down searches at airports or international border crossings.

Vehicle Searches at Traffic Stops

At traffic stops, police have the right to seize any illegal items that are in plain view. They cannot search the glove compartment or trunk without probable cause, but often officers will claim that the car smells like marijuana and that this gives them the right to search the entire vehicle. If there is probable cause to do so, the police can also bring drug-sniffing dogs to look for drugs in your car.

If the police overstep their boundaries in searching your vehicle, and they find illegal drugs, stolen property, or other illegal items, it does not mean that a plea deal is now the best-case scenario. Your lawyer may be able to suppress the illegally obtained evidence at your trial or get the charges against you dropped entirely.

Atlanta Criminal Defense Lawyer

A criminal defense lawyer can help you stand up for your legal rights, including those guaranteed to you in the Fourth Amendment. Contact the defense lawyers at Ghanayem & Rayasam in Atlanta, Georgia about criminal charges that stem from warrantless searches.