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2 types of searches police may perform during a traffic stop

On Behalf of | Aug 10, 2023 | Criminal Defense

The average motorist in Maryland aspires to completely avoid the police whenever possible. Getting pulled over by an officer frequently leads to expensive citations and sometimes even criminal prosecution.

Motorists, therefore, need to be aware of Maryland traffic laws and also of their rights during interactions with police officers. A police officer who has pulled someone over for a suspected traffic infraction often intends to (at the very least) write a ticket, but they will also likely look for any opportunity to arrest someone for a more serious criminal infraction.

A search is often a key element in the pursuit of more serious criminal charges after a traffic stop. There are usually two types of searches that officers may justify depending on the circumstances present during a traffic stop.

Vehicle searches

Officers can search a vehicle if someone gives them permission during a traffic stop. It is quite common for motorists to assume that allowing a search will lead to a faster and more amicable resolution to the traffic issue. However, they may set themselves up for arrest and prosecution by allowing a search. If an officer doesn’t have the permission of the motorist, then they need to have probable cause to suspect a crime to justify searching a vehicle.

Pat downs or bodily searches

Searching someone’s body can be a necessary step during a traffic stop, but it is also an invasive process. As with vehicle searches, sometimes individuals consent to an officer searching their person. However, the rules are a bit different for pat-downs than they are for vehicle searches if someone does not give their direct consent. Specifically, officers need to have a reasonable suspicion that there is a weapon present. Simply believing that someone has contraband is not justification for a bodily search unless an officer has already placed someone under arrest and is about to transfer them to state facilities.

Those facing charges related to a traffic stop can sometimes raise a defense by challenging the evidence gathered during illegal searches of their person or their vehicle. Learning more about what to expect during a traffic stop in Maryland can help people to better manage their risk of arrest and prosecution. Similarly, seeking legal guidance after a stop has occurred can help individuals to better safeguard their rights as their situation continues to unfold.