In our last discussion, we talked about some of the exceptions that permit
law enforcement to gather admissible evidence during a warrantless search.
One of the most common questions I get is regarding the search of an automobile.
The automobile exception constitutionally permits the law enforcement
officer to search the automobile without a warrant if the officer has
probable cause to believe the automobile contains contraband or evidence
of a crime, and circumstances exist making the normal warrant procedure
impractical. The courts look at the totality of the circumstances when
considering whether a law enforcement officer had probable cause to do
a warrantless automobile search. The courts have ruled that probable cause
to search an automobile is present when the facts and circumstances before
the officer would lead a reasonably discreet and prudent person to believe
that the contents of the automobile would be unlawful.
An example that plays out on a daily basis is the law enforcement officer
that stops the individual for a brake light violation and happens to smell
marijuana when he or she approaches the vehicle. For example, Larry Law Enforcement
pulls over Charlie Cannabis because his license plate bulb is not illuminated.
As Larry approaches the car, his "well-trained nose" smells
the odor of burnt marijuana in the air. Chris Cannabis rolls down the
window and marijuana smoke bellows out of the car and he's placing
what appears to Larry as a marijuana joint in the ashtray. Larry, under
these circumstances, will generally have probable cause to search Chris
Cannabis' car, without seeking a warrant. If you've been arrested
and need legal advice, call the
Law Office of Robert L. Booker today. We will thoroughly review your case, and discuss any defenses you may have.