Police cannot search your vehicle during a traffic stop without valid consent from you. In other words, you have the right to deny law enforcement the opportunity to search through your belongings. The importance of consent in Nebraska interstate drug cases cannot be understated.
If police violate your consent or manipulate you into giving consent, a well-practiced lawyer at Berry Law: Criminal Defense and Personal Injury Lawyers can help defend your constitutional rights. Let us help ensure that any evidence they find in violation of your consent is suppressed from the trial.
Consent vs Coercion
If you consent to a search, police can lawfully search your car, but coercion does not mean consent. In some cases, people feel intimidated by the questions law enforcement asks, meaning the consent to search may be less of a consensual encounter and more of a coercive encounter.
When law enforcement cannot get consent to search the vehicle, they may ask for consent to have a drug dog sniff. But once again, they have to be given valid consent to do so, meaning they can’t threaten to keep you there all day or tear your car apart, for example, to intimidate you.
Even when there’s no reasonable suspicion to detain you, the officer may still be concerned that you are involved in criminal activity if you have out-of-state plates. They may say, “Can I ask you some additional questions?” If you say yes, the officer can ask a lot more probing questions about whether you have any drugs, contraband, or weapons. At this point, the law considers this a voluntary police-citizen encounter.
Searching the Vehicle
If law enforcement does not have valid consent, they need probable cause to actually search your vehicle. Police can search everything from the glove box to the trunk to false compartments. If they have probable cause to search, they can and will search absolutely everything.
Sometimes, probable cause is in plain view. For example, when there’s a gun on the passenger seat, law enforcement is going to want to search the entire car. However, we have seen cases where police searched an entire vehicle based on what they assumed to be marijuana shake on the floor of the car, but it was actually just wilted lettuce.
It is important to remember that the consent to search can go well beyond what a driver intends. For example, in some cases, narcotics are found in Christmas packages in vehicles. While law enforcement can search with consent, consent does not give them permission to destroy a container to render it useless. Permission to search never means permission to destroy property, and it is illegal for law enforcement to do so.
Authority to Give Consent
The person giving consent must have the authority to do so. In cases where the vehicle belongs to the passenger, law enforcement will stop the driver and ask to search the car. If the driver says yes but indicates that the vehicle belongs to the passenger, police should know that the driver does not have the authority to consent to searches.
You can give limited consent to search your vehicle but not the trunk, for example. If law enforcement searches the trunk anyway, an experienced attorney at Berry Law: Criminal Defense and Personal Injury Lawyers can argue in court that there was an unlawful search. Similarly, if you have luggage and police ask to search your vehicle, you can give consent to search the car but not the luggage. Police need to respect that. Any evidence of criminal activity that is found in violation of your limited consent must be suppressed and thrown out of court because it would be obtained illegally.
Anyone who gives consent to search has the right to revoke it. Importantly, the revocation must be clear and unequivocal. You have to make sure it’s clear that you are revoking permission to search your vehicle. If you clearly state that you no longer want police to search your car and the search continues, then the search is illegal, and all evidence gathered afterward is inadmissible in court.
Ask an Attorney about The Importance of Consent in Nebraska Interstate Drug Cases
Keep in mind that even if it seems like law enforcement had consent to do something, that isn’t always the case. The law protects us from police doing unreasonable things, and Berry Law: Criminal Defense and Personal Injury Lawyers’s legal team can help assert your right to give and revoke consent to searches.
If you were recently accused of traveling through the State of Nebraska with controlled substances, let our attorneys investigate whether police had proper consent to reach that conclusion. Call today to learn more about the importance of consent in Nebraska interstate drug cases.