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Can a police officer search my vehicle at a traffic stop?

If a police officer stops you for speeding, an improper lane change, or running a stop sign, chances are they will issue you a traffic ticket and you will be on your way. However, in some cases, the officer may ask to search your vehicle. Under the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, you are protected from unreasonable searches and seizures. In other words, Georgia police officers cannot search your home, vehicle, luggage, or any other place where you have a legitimate expectation of privacy without probable cause or a warrant to do so.

In many cases involving a traffic stop, the officer does not have a warrant and, therefore, must rely on probable cause to search the vehicle. Probable cause refers to a reasonable suspicion that you were involved in criminal activity or a reasonable suspicion that your vehicle contains evidence of a crime. An officer merely having a hunch is not enough to constitute probable cause.

An officer may also choose to search your vehicle if you give them consent to do so or if they see evidence in plain view. For example, if there is drug paraphernalia on the backseat and the officer sees it through the window, that is enough for the officer to legally search the vehicle.

If an officer illegally searches your vehicle and arrests you, your criminal defense attorney will establish that your arrest was unlawful and that any evidence found during the search should be thrown out. If your vehicle was searched illegally, your charges may be dropped due to lack of valid evidence.

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