Illegal Search and Seizure in Montgomery County DUIs
A search can be an inspection of one’s residence, business, or vehicle, among other things. In the event of a DUI investigation, officers may search a subject’s person, their pockets, and any bags that they might have in their vehicle.
A seizure is when a person is deprived temporarily of their liberty. That could mean they were stopped by a police officer for investigation purposes or other reasons, and temporarily detained. An experienced DUI lawyer could analyze the circumstances of a search or seizure in Montgomery County and determine if certain errors or omissions on the part of the searching officers are grounds for the dismissal of resulting evidence.
What Constitutes an Unreasonable Search?
In most cases, a search may only be conducted when an officer has a warrant. If an officer does not have a warrant when conducting a search, it is considered unlawful. However, there are exceptions to the requirement. One is gaining the consent to search: If an officer asks the person if they can search their vehicle and the person gives permission, there is no need for a warrant.
Similarly, if an officer wants to conduct a search without a warrant, they may conduct a search incident to arrest. The officer may search a vehicle, a person’s pocket or something else after they establish probable cause to place someone under arrest and the arrest is made. These searches could be for the officer’s safety, to make sure there are no concerns about weapons that could be used to injure the officer. Most often, it is used so the officer can find other illegal contraband. For example, a person who is stopped during the course of a DUI arrest might find themselves subject to a search of their vehicle. An officer might find an open container inside their vehicle, a small amount of marijuana, or something else illegal, and may subsequently charge the subject for that.
Defining a Warrantless Search
A warrantless search means an officer conducted a search without a warrant, i.e. they did not apply for a search warrant from a judge and provide the judge with reasons for the search. Instead, the officer made a determination on their own, based on an investigation with some level of legitimacy to the search. They either did not have the time to get a warrant or an exception to the Fourth Amendment requirement for a warrant was met. A warrant is no longer required for that search.
An officer must show there was probable cause to conduct a warrantless search based within some exception of the Fourth Amendment requirement for an officer to have a warrant. Warrantless searches are conducted regularly, but there must be a basis to do so. An officer cannot simply search a premises, person, or vehicle without establishing those principles in a police report or other dictation so that all parties, including the defendant, are made aware of why a warrantless search took place.
Contact a Montgomery County DUI Attorney
If you were subject to an illegal search and seizure during your DUI stop, you should contact a Montgomery County attorney as soon as possible. Police misconduct could justify a dismissal of the evidence against you, leading to a better outcome in your case. Call today to schedule a consultation.