Friday, January 15, 2010
Illegal Automobile Search Results in Evidence Being Thrown Out
When the police stop a car for a traffic violation, they have to let the car go once they reasonably finish the original stop.
According to the Salt Lake Tribune, federal judge Clark Waddoups excluded evidence found after an illegal search of an automobile because the police officer continued to question the driver after the traffic stop had concluded.
The driver's attorney, Benjamin McMurray, argued that "no reasonable person would have felt free to drive away from an officer who continued an interrogation despite having repeatedly been refused."
The United States Constitution protects against unreasonable warrantless searches. The driver in this case may have been guilty of speeding, but that did not entitle the police officer to search his car.
I have seen numerous cases, both as a prosecutor and as a defense attorney, in which a police officer improperly extended a traffic stop and asked for consent to search a car. Usually, the officer needs either a warrant to search or the driver needs to give consent to search the car if the search is going to be legal. If the driver does not give consent it is often difficult for the officer to legally search.