Sometimes. When a police officer makes a lawful arrest of an occupant or the occupants of an automobile he may, at the same time of the arrest, search passenger compartments of the vehicle. He may also examine the contents of any container (such as a purse, backpack, or briefcase) found within the passenger compartment. But the police may do this only if the occupant who was arrested is within reaching distance of a passenger compartment at the time of the search, or it is reasonable to believe the vehicle contains evidence of the offense of arrest. Otherwise, the search may be unreasonable.

If the search is unreasonable, it is a violation of your Fourth Amendment right to protection against unreasonable search and seizures. Thus, any evidence obtained during the unreasonable search should be excluded from your trial, meaning that evidence can’t be used against you. The suppression of evidence often leads to a dismissal of charges or a not guilty verdict.

For example, consider a person who is arrested for driving under suspension. He is handcuffed and locked in a patrol car. At that point, he does not have access to his car to retrieve weapons or evidence any longer. Generally speaking, this would make any subsequent search of the automobile invalid. So, if this person was arrested and locked in a patrol car, and if the police search the pocket of a jacket on the back seat and find cocaine, the possession of such cocaine would be inadmissible in a trial, and thus the defendant would not be found guilty of possession of cocaine.

If you have been charged with a crime and searched and evidence was seized, the search may have been unlawful. If the search was unreasonable, an experienced criminal defense attorney may be able to exclude that evidence from being used against you. This is helpful in reaching a dismissal, a not-guilty verdict, or a favorable plea bargain. If you wish to discuss your case with a criminal defense attorney, please do not hesitate to contact the lawyers of Holland & Usry, P.A. toll-free at 888.230.1841 for your FREE confidential consultation.


John Holland
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John Holland is a Spartanburg Family law attorney, practicing since 2012.