DC Drugs and Car Searches Lawyer

If you have been arrested for drug possession, you could be facing severe penalties. Any evidence discovered by the police may be used against you in a court of law, including evidence found in your vehicle during a car search. However, not all car searches are performed legally.  If your car has been searched, talk to a Washington, DC drugs and car searches lawyer to find out whether you have grounds to challenge the results of an illegal search. A DC drug lawyer is available today to schedule a free consultation.

When Can an Officer Search a Vehicle?

The police cannot search your vehicle during a routine traffic stop unless they have probable cause to believe your car contains illegal items. Probable cause is a higher degree of certainty than a mere hunch or suspicion, but is still a much lower standard than proof beyond a reasonable doubt.

The following situations constitute probable cause for a search:

  • Evidence in plain sight – When an officer makes a stop for a routine traffic infraction and sees an illegal drug inside the car in plain view, he has probable cause to search your vehicle for additional evidence of drug possession, including any closed containers that could contain contraband. All illegal materials may be seized and used as evidence against the suspect.
  • Admission of illegal items – If you admit to being in possession of illegal items while in your car, either in response to an officer’s questions before being placed in custody or through a spontaneous utterance at any point, officers may search your car for those items and seize any contraband found, even if they were not the subject of the initial search.
  • After an arrest – If a driver is stopped and arrested for, as an example, driving on a suspended license, the police can legally search the body and the vehicle of the suspect incident to that arrest.

Consenting to a search of your car is, in nearly all circumstances, considered to be a waiver of your constitutional right to be free of searches without probable cause.  Regardless of what a police officer tells you, you are never required to consent to a search.

A local DC drugs and car searches attorney will help you determine whether the search of your vehicle was legal and whether any evidence discovered can be used against you in court.

Penalties for Possession of Drugs

In order to be convicted of drug possession, the prosecution must demonstrate that you were either in actual possession of the drug, meaning it was located on your body, or that you had constructive possession of the drug, meaning that you both knew of its presence and had the ability and intent to exercise control over it. The fact that a drug was found in your vehicle does not automatically mean you knowingly and intentionally possessed that drug.  Drug possession is almost always a misdemeanor, punishable by up to 180 days in jail and up to $1,000 in fines.  However, possession of liquid PCP is a felony, even if there is no specific evidence proving that the suspect had the intent to distribute the drug.  Possession of liquid PCP is punishable by up to 3 years in jail and up to $12,500 in fines.

Contacting a Washington, DC Drugs and Car Searches Lawyer

If your car has been searched for drugs or you have questions about legal and illegal searches, contact an experienced DC drugs and car searches lawyer to get the answers you need. Your lawyer can help you determine whether the search was legal and what options you have for your defense.