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Pennsylvania Supreme Court enables law enforcement to search vehicles without warrant

The United States Constitution protects all citizens from unreasonable searches and seizures, but this right typically applies only to a person’s home or place of business. Until recently, however, authorities in Pennsylvania were required to obtain a warrant from a judge before searching a vehicle for evidence of a drug crime, sex crime, or even drunk driving.

Now that the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania has given law enforcement the authority to search vehicles without a warrant, the state could see more arrests for a variety of alleged crimes. The recent ruling has led some to voice concern over the lack of privacy for citizens, who sometimes carry a tremendous amount of data with them on their smart phones. According to the state Supreme Court decision, these devices could be searched along with any other areas of the vehicle.

It is possible that the decision will also lead law enforcement to pull over certain types of drivers that could be traveling with incriminating items that would lead the officers to make an arrest. However, police officers are required to have a reason to believe that a crime has been committed before they search a vehicle. If police officers do not have probable cause before they conduct a vehicle search that leads to an arrest, the evidence they collect may be challenged in court.

People who are carrying illegal drugs in their vehicle could be charged with possession of drugs or even more serious charges such as drug trafficking. These crimes often come with serious consequences such as prison sentences. Fortunately, people who are facing these types of drug charges can seek the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney who can help them find the best outcome possible.

Source: CBS Philly, “SCOPA: Police No Longer Need Warrants To Search Cars In Pa.,” May 15, 2014

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Gregory R. Gifford
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