A North Carolina man recently learned the hard way that everyday traffic stops are often anything but routine. When the man was pulled over for a common moving violation, officers noticed his suspicious demeanor, a strong odor of marijuana, and what appeared to be a large clear baggie of the leafy green drug in plain view in his cargo shorts pocket.
After a brief struggle, the man was placed under arrest, which was followed by the execution of two warrants to search the man’s car and residence, where more marijuana was discovered in addition to weapons and close to $38,000 in cold hard cash. Another recent case had a similar outcome, with a Mooresville man’s traffic stop ending in his arrest on drug and weapons charges.
Can my car be searched if I’m just pulled over for a traffic stop?
While the answer to this question may depend on a number of factors, police may be able to search your car if you are pulled over for a moving violation. There are two primary scenarios under which this may occur:
Consent. Suspects who agree to let the police search their car when they ask have effectively consented to the search, and become criminally liable for anything law enforcement might then find in their possession
Reasonable suspicion. When police observe something that leads them to reasonably suspect that there is other criminal activity occurring, they may also be permitted to search the car
When can a dog sniff my car?
Contrary to what many might think, dogs may sniff a car without consent or a warrant, as this is not a considered a search, and therefore does not require a quantum of suspicion. As such, dog sniffs are permissible in any traffic stop, provided that the sniff does not extend the stop, subject to certain exceptions.