Let's say you're driving down a Texas road and a police officer pulls you over in a traffic stop. Such a situation may cause your heart to feel like it has skipped a beat. If you've consumed an alcoholic beverage in the recent past or there's an empty prescription medication vial lying on the floor of your car, your situation may get worse before it gets better, especially if the officer already suspects you of a crime.
Perhaps your tires touched the yellow line as you rounded a bend, just before the officer pulled you over. This alone may not constitute probable cause for an arrest, but if the officer searches your car and finds an alcohol container or other alleged evidence, you may wind up going to jail, at least for the time being. This is why it's critical that you know your Fourth Amendment rights and where to seek support to help you protect them.
A lawfully executed search warrant is a key factor
If the officer who pulled you over asks you to step out of your car, you can bet he or she suspects you of impaired driving or some other crime. You do not have to consent to a search of your vehicle. If the officer searches your car or your person, you can challenge any evidence proffered if prosecutors later file charges against you and you believe the search violated your rights. The following list provides information regarding validity of searches, seizures and arrests:
- The U.S. Constitution states that a lawfully executed search warrant is the preferred means under which to conduct a search, seizure or arrest.
- There are some situations where a police officer would be able to conduct a search without a warrant. It is important to understand this aspect of criminal law if you plan to challenge evidence in court.
- If a police officer claims to have seen open drug vials or containers of alcohol inside your vehicle, he or she may not need to get a signed warrant to search your car.
- Many search and seizure situations amount to an officer's word against a defendant's.
- If a police officer requests a search warrant from the court, he or she must provide sworn testimony that the information provided to support the warrant is true to the best of his or her knowledge.
It's always best to try to remain calm and cooperate as much as possible if a problem situation arises where you are at risk for arrest. You have additional rights under the U.S. Constitution, such as the right to remain silent and also to request legal support. By invoking your rights and paying careful attention to the events that transpire leading up to and following your arrest, you may be able to build a strong enough defense to avoid conviction.