Is it legal for a police officer to pull you over in traffic, tell you to get out of your car, and then start rummaging through your seats and removing objects from inside your vehicle? The answer is absolutely not. The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution protects you from unlawful searches and seizures. Further, a Tennessee police officer (as well as those in other states) must have probable cause to suspect you of a crime before he or she places you under arrest.
Many people have a vague understanding at best when it comes to what probable cause actually entails. However, if you hope to avoid DUI and other criminal offense-related matters, or at least increase your chances of avoiding conviction if you are arrested and charged with a crime, you may want to brush up on state laws and develop a plan that includes knowledge of where to turn for help if a problem arises.
Determining probable cause
If a police officer has logical reason to believe you have committed or you are about to commit a crime (or are in the process of committing one) you may be detained and questioned. However, police officers are capable of making mistakes. Therefore, it’s always good to pay close attention to the details of a situation, so you can be as proactive as possible in protecting your own rights. The following list contains basic facts regarding probable cause:
- Probable cause may not result from a police officer’s mere opinion or personal suspicion. There must be facts and/or circumstances evident of possible criminal activity.
- There are situations where warrantless searches may occur, but in such cases, a police officer would be required to show probable cause afterward in order for prosecution to proceed.
- Situations that allow for searches without warrants might include permission from a property owner, an imminent public safety threat and/or incidents pursuant to lawful arrests.
- Typically, a police officer must submit a request for a warrant via a signed affidavit that a judge then either approves or rejects.
Generally speaking, it’s important to behave in such a way that no undue suspicion is drawn. For instance, if police witness you trying to hide an object, throw something away or leave the scene, you will likely make matters far worse before they get better.
How to access support
In addition to calling your family, notifying your employer and other personal contacts you may make if you’re arrested and charged with DUI or another crime in Tennessee, there are other advocates who can provide counsel and support as you navigate the criminal justice process. One such alliance is an experienced criminal defense attorney who has gone to bat to challenge evidence or otherwise call police actions into question to protect a defendant’s rights and help avoid conviction.