Search after a traffic infraction

"There were four police cars who pulled me over. Even though I stopped right away, they make me get out and said they were going to search my car."

This is an all-too-common scenario. Maybe the officer saw you make a turn without using your turn signal... or one of your headlights is out.... or an improper U-turn..... or a Virginia Parks Pass hanging from your rear-view mirror..... or license plate registration had expired.... or license plate burned out. Whatever the reason, this is called a "pretextual stop."

The United States Supreme Court has held that a "pretextual stop" does not violate the Constitution as long as the officer spotted an actual violation of the law. The police can pull you over for a tail light being out, even if that is not the 'real' reason. The number and extent of motor vehicle laws and regulations is truly mind-boggling, so there is a very good chance that something is wrong with your vehicle or how you operate it.

However, there is a difference between a traffic stop and a search after that stop. If the police have cause to arrest you -- for a DUI or an outstanding warrant or whatever proper reason -- they can search you and your vehicle. However, if the police search your vehicle because you had a tail light out, there is a good chance that whatever the police find will not be admissible in Court.

If you find yourself in this kind of situation and you need the help of an attorney, please feel free to contact my office to schedule a free consultation.

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"This page is not an advertisement; it is a blog. The views and opinions expressed on this blog are solely those of attorney Robert Lorey. The purpose of these articles is to inform the public regarding various issues involving the criminal justice system and should not be construed to suggest a similar outcome in any other case. The outcome of any case depends on a myriad of factors which are well outside this blog post."

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