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Traffic Stops and Car Search, Part II

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Police may stop you for a vehicle code violation and cite you.  They may not, however, keep you there for an extended period of time.

By Attorney Elisabeth K.H. Pasqualini, Drug Defense Attorney, Harrisburg, PA

I had previously blogged on this site on January 21, 2012 about police detaining drivers and passengers for an extended period of time at a roadside vehicle stop.  I have a recent application of how this is not permissible under State or Federal Law.

In U.S. v. Fraguela-Casanova and Almaguer, the evidence obtained after a 134 minute roadside detention by police investigating a vehicle code violation was suppressed by the Federal Middle District Court on March 12, 2012.  There, 22,500 cartons of stolen, untaxed cigarettes were found inside the trailer of an 18 wheeler.  The passenger, my client, was likewise detained along with the driver and the vehicle while the police took an exceedingly long time to determine if "hits" for warrants would show up for either man.  They did not.  The Court sided with our argument that the 4th Amendment was violated when the investigatory detention morphed into a roadside "arrest" for which probable cause was not present.

However, during the 94 minute long detention and later arrest, the police sought and received consent from the driver.  This consent was not valid because of the extended delay.  The moral of the story- NEVER CONSENT to a search of your car.  As pointed out in my prior blog, the police need one of three things in PA to search your car:

  1. Probable cause and exigent circumstances; or
  2. A lawfully issued warrant; or
  3. Consent

Make the police do their job and get probable cause.  In this case, the extended delay for them to try to get probable cause was the very thing that made their case go down.  The delay was too long and it became an arrest without probable cause.

If you've been stopped for a vehicle code violation and have had your vehicle searched by police, you should contact an experienced drug attorney to investigate your case.  You may call Shaffer & Engle Law Offices, LLC toll free or email us today.

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