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Are vehicle searches allowed without a search warrant?

In the aftermath of a Tennessee traffic stop, the individual detained may be unsure of his or her rights. Very often, an arrest follows a search of a motor vehicle without law enforcement first obtaining a search warrant. Motorists may not be aware that the laws for searching a residence and a car vary, and there are certain circumstances under which a car may be searched without a warrant.

Based on a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court, warrantless searches may be conducted under certain reasonable conditions, including when the driver grants permission. Even without permission from the driver, the police may search the car if they have probable cause that suggests the vehicle contains evidence of a crime. Also, if the officers believe that their lives may be threatened by firearms or other weapons that may be in the car, they are permitted to carry out a search and seize any weapons they find.

If the person's arrest is related to a drug offense, the vehicle may be searched for illegal drugs. When it comes to the reason for stopping a vehicle, law enforcement has the right to pull over any driver -- even for an insignificant traffic offense. However, they will need more than a minor traffic offense to justify a warrantless search. The conduct of the driver during a stop for a traffic offense could lead to probable cause for an arrest and a search of the vehicle.

Any driver who faces drug or other charges after an arrest at a traffic stop will likely recognize the gravity of the impact such an arrest can have on his or her life -- especially if there is a conviction. However, a conviction can occur only if -- and when -- an accused individual is proved guilty in court by evidence that is said to be beyond a reasonable doubt. With the skills of an experienced Tennessee criminal defense attorney, the search and seizure procedures along with the arrest process (including the lack of a search warrant) can be scrutinized for any official impropriety. Such issues may then be addressed in court on behalf of the accused individual.

Source: FindLaw, "Can the Police Legitimately Search My Vehicle Without a Warrant?", Accessed on July 17, 2017

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