Getting arrested for a DWI in Louisiana has many severe consequences. If the police find illegal substances, an open container or any other contraband in your car during a search, the punishment worsens. Not all vehicle searches are lawful, however, and evidence from unjustified searches can be thrown out of court.
Don’t let an illegal search put you at risk for unconstitutional jail time or fines. Contact the criminal defense attorneys at Bates and McMillin to begin the fight for your rights.
Can Police Search Your Car Without a Warrant?
Though many people believe that the Fourth Amendment of the US Constitution will protect them from a vehicle search, that belief is often incorrect. The Supreme Court gives the police more freedom to search your car then they have to search your house. In many cases, the police can conduct a vehicle search without a warrant and without consent.
With a DUI stop, the police must have a reasonable suspicion that you are breaking the law by drinking and driving. Evidence includes observations such as speeding, reckless driving, etc. This initial DUI stop is not enough for the police to conduct a warrantless search of your vehicle. When you are first pulled over, you may politely refuse a search of yourself and your car. The police may still conduct a search, but a skilled DUI attorney will know how to suppress this potential evidence in court if the officer finds anything illegal and the search was unconstitutional.
A police officer needs “probable cause” in order to search your vehicle after you have been arrested for driving while intoxicated. This could occur if you fail the field sobriety test, if you blow over a .08 BAC with the Breathalyzer, or if your behavior indicates you are under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The police also have probable cause to search your car if you act violent or aggressive as the officer could say that he or she was looking for a weapon. Additionally, if the police believe you are under the influence of illegal substances, such as if your eyes are bloodshot and you smell like marijuana, the officer can open small containers that may hold drugs.
Louisiana search statutes allow the police to look in what is considered the “passenger area” of the car. This area includes any space that the driver and passengers can easily access. The legality of the search could be questioned if the officers look inside places such as a locked glove compartment or the storage space behind the rear seats.
Lastly, if you do not have a passenger who can drive your vehicle home, your car will be impounded upon your DWI arrest. Law enforcement officers will conduct a full search of the car, including the trunk, and you may face additional charges if the police find anything illegal. The best way to fight further penalties from your vehicle search is to challenge the DUI itself. Let top Louisiana DUI attorneys James Bates and Robert McMillin demonstrate that the State lacks evidence to prove you were under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
What are the Exceptions to the Vehicle Search Laws in Louisiana?
The police are allowed to arrest you for any evidence they find in “plain view.” Thus, if you are pulled over for a DUI stop or at a DUI checkpoint, any illegal substance or contraband they find that was easily visible can be presented to the judge and jury.
Don’t try to fight the complex search statutes by yourself. Call now to avoid the possible prison time, fines, and license suspension following a DUI arrest with a vehicle search.