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When can police search your person during a traffic stop?

On Behalf of | Feb 16, 2022 | Criminal Defense

You have protection against unreasonable police searches under the Bill of Rights and important high court rulings. However, your opinion is not what determines whether a search is reasonable or not. A combination of existing law and court precedent establishes when a search is reasonable or potentially unreasonable. Those facing criminal charges can potentially challenge evidence gathered during an unreasonable search.

During a traffic stop, police officers have to either have permission or certain legal reasons to conduct different searches. What kind of evidence for suspicion does a police officer need to have to justify them frisking a person or searching their body during a traffic stop?

Only suspicion of weapons justifies a frisk or bodily search

Police officers may suspect the driver of numerous kinds of illegal activity. They may think that a driver has a glass inside their coat pocket or drug paraphernalia down the back of their pants.

However, it is only if a police officer suspects that someone has a weapon that they can justify frisking someone during a traffic stop without that person. Anything they find during the search can become evidence in court, but they can’t search just because they suspect the possession of something illegal.

Often, officers will get around this rule by asking if they can frisk someone quickly. Knowing your rights during a traffic stop makes it easier to stand up to the police if they ask to do something that is ultimately not reasonable. Understanding your rights can also help you plan a criminal defense strategy, such as challenging evidence gathered during an illegal search. Taking the time to explore all of your defense options can reduce your chance of a criminal conviction.