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What is the Motor Vehicle Exception?

The automobile, or motor vehicle exception allows officers to search cars for evidence, contraband, and fruits or instrumentalities of crimes without a search warrant. When you ask cops, “What does it take to search these cars?” Many of them will just say, “Probable cause.”  Well, let’s be technical, Technically, legally, there are four factors to […]

Three Golden Rules of Search and Seizure

These three golden rules come from reading thousands of court cases over the last 20 years and seeing a theme regarding what the courts are looking for. The First Golden Rule, and the most important one, is: The more you articulate why you did something, the more likely it will be upheld in court.  The […]

Purses, Bags and Backpacks

This question is: Can you look inside a woman’s purse, or a man’s backpack during a pat down?  The answer is, “Maybe.”  Here’s how this works.  We know that patdowns are an overall minimally intrusive way to protect yourself from weapons and blunt objects during a Terry stop.  And, if you have reason to believe […]

Body Snatching

Here is the question:  Can an officer reach slightly into a person’s home to pull them out and arrest them? If an officer has probable cause, but no arrest warrant, and the person opens up the door, they’re talking to the officer, and the suspect is just an inch inside his house, would it be […]

When is Miranda Required?

When is Miranda required during a detention? There is some confusion on this subject.  Many officers tell me that Miranda is required when the person is not free to leave. They were taught this.  But unfortunately, it’s not true.  That is not the legal standard. Not being free to leave is a detention.  But we […]

Juvenile Consent to Search a Cellphone

This question comes from an officer in Kansas.  What are the requirements for consent to search a cellphone?  The situation was; several officers stopped some young kids that were suspected of throwing rocks from an overpass onto a car.  The officers noticed that they had cell phones, and they asked for consent to search the […]

Single Purpose Container Doctrine

Today’s question is from an officer in Indiana; Would the single purpose container doctrine allow cops to search a vehicle’s hidden compartment?  The first thing we want to learn is: What is a single purpose container?  The single purpose container doctrine basically says that some containers, due to their shape, weight, size, material and the […]

Vehicle Trunk Search

This question came from an officer in New Jersey.  Can police search the trunk of a car on the motor vehicle exception? The hypothetical goes something like this: patrol was notified of a suspicious person and vehicle.  They found a male under the influence of heroin located right outside the vehicle.  A semi-conscious female was […]

Consent to Search by Co-Occupants

Today’s question is one that I get all the time around the country and it’s important. So let’s go through it.  Can you get consent to search a home from a spouse, even if the non- consenting spouse has left? The answer is, “Yes you can.”   You can use that consent even if there is […]

What is the Cat Out of the Bag Search?

Today’s question is, What is a cat out of the bag search? This ties in with private searches. Just to remind you, a private search is not a Fourth Amendment search.  It does not have to be reasonable.  We don’t care if it would offend the Fourth Amendment.  If the police are not involved in […]

Reasonable Suspicion Vs Probable Cause

What is the difference between reasonable suspicion and probable cause?  It’s a great question, because even the courts struggle with defining the difference.  There is no one definition that’s in the legal dictionary, so let’s look at them separately. First of all, we have to find a hunch.  Every officer can have a hunch.  Officers […]

No Trespassing Signs

Here is a question that we frequently encounter:  Will a “No Trespassing” sign and a closed gate prohibit you from doing a knock and talk? Let me give you some context here.  Some deputies in a rural setting want to do a knock and talk on a burglary suspect.  They don’t have probable cause to […]

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