With so many states legalizing cannabis, it may seem like the rest of the country continues to head in that direction.
While Pennsylvania has decriminalized small amounts in some cases, it continues to be an illegal substance. If you have some in your possession and get pulled over for a traffic stop, you likely have questions about the legality of search and seizure rules.
1. Can an officer legally search my car after a traffic stop?
Regardless if you seem nervous, the police have no right to search your vehicle for no reason. You have the right to refuse a search and do not have to give consent, even if the officer makes you feel like you do. A stop in itself does not equate to probable cause for a search, but potential evidence may provide the basis an officer needs to search without a warrant.
2. What does the state consider probable cause?
If you have not committed a traffic violation, officers do not have the right to make random traffic stops. Once you commit a driving offense, they can only complete a search if they suspect something amiss. That might equate to the smell of marijuana or a baggie of the substance in plain sight. The recent Supreme Court case of Alexander requires officers to have both probable cause and exigent circumstances for a warrantless automotive search.
3. What circumstances might affect my rights?
Like with most things in life, these rules have exceptions. Officers may conduct a warrantless search if you give consent to a search. If they find anything, they can seize evidence and make an arrest.
If you feel you experienced an unlawful search, remember that you have rights.