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Can an officer search my trunk during a traffic stop?

During a traffic stop, law enforcement may be able to search your trunk without your permission provided they have reasonable cause.

There is nothing worse than driving down the road and seeing flashing lights come up behind you. Even if you are doing nothing wrong, it is a situation that makes any driver nervous. In some cases, a simple traffic stop can open the door for more serious criminal charges. It is important to be aware of your rights in these types of police encounters and the circumstances under which law enforcement can conduct a search of your vehicle.

Your Rights Regarding Searches During Traffic Stops

Police officers can pull you over for a variety of reasons. Regardless of the circumstances, you are required to pull over when you see flashing lights behind you. Once stopped, the officer will ask you to show your driver’s license, vehicle registration, and proof of insurance. You are required to comply with this request, as well. They may or may not inform you at this time of the reasons for your traffic stop. To protect your personal safety, it is important to remain calm and to avoid any sudden movements during this encounter.

At some point during your encounter, the officer may request permission to search your vehicle or your trunk. You have the right to refuse this request. The Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution protects citizens against unreasonable searches or seizures and covers your home, property, and person. The only exception to this is if the police have probable cause to make a search.

The Difference Between Reasonable Suspicion and Probable Cause

Reasonable suspicion is what often allows an officer to make a traffic stop. Akin to a hunch, it refers to the feeling an officer gets that something is not right in the situation. Perhaps you were weaving in and out of your lane or driving at night with your headlights off, both of which are behaviors often associated with driving under the influence.

Probable cause is more than just a suspicion that something is amiss. In a traffic stop, the officer may have seen you running a red light. While this is probable cause for pulling you over and writing a ticket, it does not give them the right to search your vehicle.

Under Title 22 of the Oklahoma Code, if you were pulled over as a result of matching the description of a criminal suspect or if the officer notices anything suspicious, such as weapons in the back seat or the smell of marijuana, this could provide probable cause for a search. It is important to note that if it is later determined that there was no probable cause, your charges could be reduced or dismissed.

Speak with Our Ponca City, OK Criminal Law Attorneys

At Boettcher, Devinney, Ingle & Wicker, we protect the rights of clients facing criminal charges. To speak with our Ponca City criminal law attorneys about your case, call 580-762-3031 or contact our office online and request a consultation today.

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