Being caught with drugs in your possession after a traffic stop is not necessarily a one-way ticket to jail. The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution guarantees protection against unreasonable search and seizures. What constitutes an unreasonable search and seizure is a matter of law, subject to determination by the courts. If the circumstances of a traffic stop are not reasonable, evidence of drug possession uncovered during that stop might be inadmissible in court and charges could be dismissed. This is, however, a difficult path to navigate.

The Police Must Have a Valid Reason to Stop You

Recent Supreme Court cases have upheld the principle that police must have probable cause to make a traffic stop – that is, there must be a valid reason to believe that a violation of the law is taking place. This can be as simple as having a headlight or taillight out, or failing to signal a turn.

However, a 2016 Supreme Court case indicates that police might have some leeway when they believe a crime has been committed and make a stop. In Utah v. Strieff, the court ruled that evidence uncovered by an officer who stopped a motorist leaving a suspected drug house and subsequently discovered that there was an outstanding warrant on the driver should not be excluded. Prior Supreme Court cases uphold the broad view of probable cause in drug cases arising from evidence uncovered during traffic stops.

It is Possible to Exclude Evidence Seized During a Traffic Stop

In any criminal case involving drugs or other evidence seized during a traffic stop, a motion to suppress evidence can be used to challenge the legality of the search and seizure. If the judge determines the evidence, such as drugs, was uncovered by an illegal search, the evidence can be excluded. If the drugs cannot be entered into evidence, a drug possession charge must be dismissed.

Obviously, circumstances will dictate whether it is possible to exclude evidence. Key questions include whether the officer had a legal reason to stop the vehicle, the justification for the search, whether there was a search warrant and whether there was probable cause for that warrant, and if the search is a warrantless search of a vehicle after a traffic stop, the circumstances surrounding that traffic stop.

If You Have Been Arrested for Drug Possession After a Traffic Stop in the Columbia Area, You Should Contact Criminal Defense Attorney William A. Hodge, Attorney at Law

If you have been arrested on drug charges following a traffic stop in the Columbia area, it is in your best interests to contact an attorney. Competent legal representation is the best way avoid or mitigate the impact of a drug charge conviction. You need a competent attorney to guide you through the legal process. William A. Hodge, Attorney at Law, can assist you with such charges and help you to reduce consequences for a traffic-stop arrest or even have the evidence suppressed and charges dismissed. You can call me at (803) 457-2216 or use my online contact form.