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Probable cause and your rights

Driving home late after work one evening in California, an officer pulls you over for having a tail light out. After approaching your vehicle and asking you preliminary questions, the officer asks to search your vehicle. You worry that the officer may find traces or marijuana or an empty beer can if you consent to the search, but you also worry that refusing to consent will make the officer believe you have something to hide.

Perhaps after a long day, you accidentally take a wrong turn down a dead end in your neighborhood. You attempt to quickly turn around, but an officer watches you and pulls you over to question you. Upon lowering your window, the officer notices a strong smell of marijuana in the car, and the officer arrests you and charges you for driving under the influence of drugs.

When an officer pulls you over or wishes to search your vehicle, they must have probable cause to do so.

Identifying probable cause and fighting charges

Probable cause can range from the fact that you operated your vehicle suspiciously, committed a traffic violation, or that your plates registered to a previous offender. Specifically, according to California law, an officer has the authority to pull you over or search your vehicle if:

  • The officer has probable cause to know that you have committed a crime

The issue of probable cause is popular, as many individuals feel that if an officer illegally pulled over their vehicle without probable cause, they would not have sustained drug or weapons charges after searches.

If an officer violates the law of probable cause, your charges may not have the ability to uphold in court. Similar to illegally searching a home or vehicle and finding paraphernalia, a court will not see any information found as admissible in court.

An officer may pull you over for not using your signal light, matching a police description of an offender or even driving too slowly on the highway.

Criminal law attorneys are versed in determining whether an officer had probable cause to search your vehicle or pull you over in a traffic stop. If you face significant charges after a traffic stop that you believe should not have occurred as no probable cause may have existed, you must contact an attorney immediately to discuss your circumstances, so that your attorney can attempt to help you avoid penalties.

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Kirakosian Law APC
Historic Engine Co. No. 28
644 S. Figueroa St.
Los Angeles, CA 90017

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