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Law Firms in Madison WI

Law Firms In Madison WI Explain Search And Seizure

Consult Law Firms In Madison, WI To Determine The Legality Of OWI Traffic Stops And Searches

One of the first questions law firms in Madison, WI will consider when a client comes to them with an OWI (operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated) traffic stop and search case is whether or not the stop and search was legal. There’s no clear-cut answer as to the legality of such searches because every traffic stop is different with unique circumstances surrounding it.

OWIs Do Not Require A Search Warrant

The general public is made to understand that search warrants are required in order for police to search their property, but that protection doesn’t extend to vehicular searches. In cases involving vehicles, police only need “probable cause” to conduct a search right then and there. “Probable cause” is one of those intentionally vague legal terms that necessitates that each case be examined individually to determine if the search was legal or not.

Even so, police must still have some facts or evidence upon which to base their search. Law firms in Madison, WI are in agreement: you cannot be stopped and undergo a search for no reason at all.

Examples Of Probable Cause

If you are pulled over by a police officer, he or she must have a reason for stopping you. In the case of OWI, stops are usually initiated based on police observation of your inability to drive the vehicle, a traffic or equipment violation. Probable cause in those instances are things like: swerving, weaving, erratic or dangerous driving.

Once the officer has stopped you and engaged in conversation, probable cause for a search may arise. This might include the sight or smell of alcohol or drugs, but it can even be a seemingly innocent answer to a question the officer has asked you. The most common of these questions is, “Do you know why I stopped you?” While this may sound like a reasonable way to begin a conversation, it’s also a way for the officer to obtain an admission of guilt from you (“I was weaving.”). Once you admit guilt in this manner, he or she has even more probable cause to search you and the car.

Searches After The Stop

If the officer has deemed that probable cause exists, it’s likely that both you and the car will be searched. This is especially true if you have been arrested. If you have been arrested it is perfectly legal for the officer to conduct a search of your person. The law even considers it reasonable since doing so:

  • Disarms suspects,
  • Preserves evidence, and
  • Ensures officer safety.

During a search officers can:

  • Order you and your passengers to exit the vehicle.
  • Ask for your drivers’ license, vehicle registration information and proof of insurance.
  • Search the vehicle in order to obtain the VIN number.
  • Use a K-9 unit to sniff for any illicit substances.
  • Frisk the driver and passengers for weapons under certain circumstances.
  • Search the vehicle if the officer establishes probable cause that there may be illegal substances or items within it.

Protect Your Rights With Help From Law Firms In Madison, WI

Even though vehicle searches don’t qualify for the same search and seizure protections as property searches, drivers still have rights and police officers must respect those rights. If you think your OWI stop and search was conducted illegally, contact the criminal defense attorneys at Eisenberg Law Offices in Madison, WI.

Call 608-256-8356 to schedule a free consultation today.