Legal Question in Criminal Law in Wisconsin

Was the search legal

I was driving home from work and was pulled over and arrested for violation of absolute sobriety. The Police searched my vehicle and found marijuana and paraphernalia. Was it legal for the Police to search my vehicle without my consent?

Asked on 1/21/09, 5:52 pm

1 Answer from Attorneys

Jeffrey Murrell Law Office of Jeffrey L. Murrell

Re: Was the search legal

Sometimes yes, sometimes no - depending on the circumstances. A law-enforcement officer is free to search a vehicle interior for purposes of insuring his or her personal security, but the search has to be directly incident to the person's arrest. I had a case in Racine County last year where I was able to get the case dismissed on a motion to suppress a bunch of drugs in the car's trunk because, after my client and the other defendant exited the car and had been standing away to the side for a while already, the officer decided to open the trunk and look inside without first obtaining permission. At the hearing, the officer said he did that "because [he] could." Well, he obviously didn't know how far his authority extended to search the vehicle. The judge suppressed the evidence (and there was a lot of it), and the prosecutor was forced to move to dismiss the case. The case caption is State of Wisconsin vs. Ervie L. Hankins, Racine County Case Number 2006CF001014. I think I would have won the case anyway because my client was completely innocent and had no knowledge that all those drugs were in the trunk of that car!

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Answered on 1/22/09, 5:17 pm

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