Your Fourth Amendment Rights In A Traffic Stop

The Fourth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America protects citizens against “unreasonable search and seizure.” This means, if there is any obvious evidence of potential wrongdoing, the police may search your vehicle. It also means, however, that police must get your expressed consent before searching your vehicle, your person, or administering a breath or blood test to determine whether or not you were operating your vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or other substances.

​WHEN AN OFFICER CAN SEARCH YOUR VEHICLE WITHOUT YOUR CONSENT

If police are performing a traffic stop to catch drunk drivers, they will be looking to do one of two things:

  • Prove that you had a BAC of 0.08 or higher.
  • Prove that you had an open container of alcohol or some other intoxicant in the vehicle.

If you have been stopped in a routine traffic stop (as opposed to being pulled over for suspicion of drunk driving), the police will likely ask you if you have been drinking, and if they suspect that you have, they may ask you to perform a field sobriety test or to submit to a breathalyzer test. Per the decision in the case of Williams vs. the State of Georgia, the prosecution in any DUI case must prove that you provided voluntary consent for a breath or blood test. If they cannot provide this proof, then the test will be thrown out in court.

If you refuse a field sobriety test or breath test, you may be arrested and taken in for an official breathalyzer test. In this case, you may refuse the test and have your license suspended for up to a year, or you may consent to the test and then fight the case in court.

At the time of the stop, the police may be looking for alcohol or illegal substances in your car. As they will not have a search warrant for your vehicle, they will likely ask for your consent for a search. You are perfectly within your rights to refuse a search. However, understand that if something illegal or suspicious is in view, this constitutes “reasonable suspicion”, and they may then search your vehicle with or without your consent.

If you believe that your Fourth Amendment rights have been violated in a traffic stop or when you were pulled over on suspicion of DUI, call us at Thomas, Webb, and Willis today at 404-250-1113 for a free consultation.

SOURCES

http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/free-books/beat-ticket-book/chapter8-2.html

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