North Carolina DWI Search and Seizure
What are my rights as they pertain to DWI search and seizures?
Under our Constitution, the 4th Amendment was created to ensure that everyone has a reasonable right to privacy. You are protected under the 4th Amendment from searches, seizures and any invasions of privacy that are considered unreasonable. This means that when police stop your motor vehicle, they cannot just start rummaging through your pockets and searching your trunk without any probable cause to do so. Obviously, if you give police permission to search, then it becomes more difficult to suppress any evidence they may have obtained. The question then becomes, did you knowingly, voluntarily waive your rights? Did you agree to the search because you wanted to, or because you were threatened or felt compelled to allow the search? Those are important legal issues to discuss with your attorney.
What is probable cause?
Probable cause must exist in order for police to legally search you or your vehicle. There are certain exceptions such as the Terry Frisk or the Plain View Rule. Furthermore, this area of law has become even more complicated with the May 2009 ruling by the United States Supreme Court in Arizona v. Gant that appears to have greatly reduced the possibility of a “search incident to arrest” of the cabin and compartment areas of your vehicle. Normally, police should have probable cause that you or something you possess is unlawful or may be evidence of guilt to be used in court. For example, after pulling someone over for speeding, it is not appropriate for the officer to start a DWI investigation or begin searching you or your vehicle unless he or she observed something unlawful.
Obviously police cannot ignore evidence of illegal activity, even if they only pulled someone over for a minor traffic offense. With regard to impaired driving, some tell-tale signs that may be immediately observable would include red glassy eyes, slurred speech, a strong odor of alcohol, erratic driving, failure to pull over right away, stopping in an inappropriate or unsafe place, rolling forward or failing to put the vehicle in park after the stop, etc.
How do I know if police legally conducted a search and seizure during my DWI investigation?
Given the ruling in Arizona v. Gant, and considering how complex this area of law is, you will want to talk with an experienced attorney. It is important to consider a number of factors involved with the stop and arrest of those accused of impaired driving. Although some cases share certain similarities, there are many different factual scenarios possible. That’s why the courts utilize a “totality of the circumstances” analysis.
DWI defense attorney Bill Powers will review your stop, arrest and detainment to determine whether police legally searched and seized your person, your property and/or vehicle. It is important to make sure police acted appropriately and in a lawful manner. Illegal stops and arrests may result in the dismissal of charges. As such, careful consideration must be given to the basis of the stop and arrest.
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