Being pulled over by a police officer is rarely an enjoyable experience. But more than just being a chore, it also triggers some important legal rights and requirements on behalf of the police and the motorist.
The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution holds that the people have a right against unreasonable searches and seizures. Searches will often involve the issuance of a search warrant, but not always. Searches and seizures can occur without a warrant under certain circumstances as long as the search is reasonable.
This can be a subtle situation that can hinge on specific details of every traffic stop. For instance, if a police officer has a reasonable suspicion that a crime is afoot he typically can pull you over. Then, if he has probable cause you committed a crime, he can arrest you. The U.S. Constitution and state-specific laws are triggered throughout this stopping and arrest process.
Most of the time, a search will be reasonable if there is probable cause for law enforcement officers to believe that it is necessary. A search incident to an arrest, for example, is generally considered reasonable since there is already probable cause to believe that the subject of the search has done something wrong.
Searches and seizures that occur randomly or that are overly burdensome or intrusive, however, will generally not be considered reasonable by a court. Any evidence acquired as a result of such a search will be removed from the official record in a case.
The following are some common questions related to being under arrest: