There are some important rules that motor vehicle operators must remember regarding the powers that law enforcement has when it comes to searching motor vehicles.
For many years, it has been established law that law enforcement must have a legitimate reason to stop a driver. In June 2018, the United States Supreme Court ruled that protections offered by the Constitution require law enforcement to obtain a search warrant before searching a parked car. This ruling stands in significant contrast to other laws that do not require a permit for law enforcement to closely examine motor vehicles that are parked on public roads.
No matter the exact situation regarding a person’s motor vehicle, it is a wise idea to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney if you have any questions regarding how Massachusetts law applies to protections created by the Fourth Amendment.
The Automobile Exception to the Fourth Amendment
The “automobile exception” to the Fourth Amendment states that in any situation in which law enforcement has probable cause to think that a motor vehicle contains evidence of a crime or any tools used to commit a crime, law enforcement is able to search a vehicle as well as any containers withi it that might contain the items in question.
It is also critical to remember that if the search of an automobile is valid, law enforcement is permitted to tow a vehicle and search it at a later date.
Due to these laws, law enforcement in Massachusetts has been able to justify motor vehicle searches in a number of situations.
The Details of This Case
The case in question arose from a man in Virginia who was convicted of stealing a motorcycle. After conducting a search for an orange and black motorcycle, law enforcement found a similarly-colored motorcycle on Facebook and tracked the vehicle to a private residence. Law enforcement entered the residence in question, lifted the tarp covering the vehicle, and took several photographs.
After the man was arrested, he claimed that the search in question was unconstitutional due to the automobile exception of the Fourth Amendment. The man later appealed his case all the way to the United States Supreme Court.
The Rationale Behind the Court’s Decision
In support of the court’s decision, the Supreme Court cited the long-established rule that law enforcement intrudes on the rights of individuals by entering private property and examining a house without looking for evidence.
The rights that are violated in these situations are those granted by the Fourth Amendment, which protects against unreasonable searches and seizures and extends to situations involving a person’s home and private property.
In reaching its decision, the Supreme Court also cited a 2013 ruling that held that law enforcement is prohibited from bringing a drug-sniffing canine onto a front porch without first obtaining a search warrant.
Speak with an Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney
This case involves one of the more complicated decisions involving the Fourth Amendment. While it is important to remember that protections offered by the Constitution now extend to parked motor vehicles, it is still critical to maintain a level of caution regarding how privacy laws apply to automobiles.
If you are charged with any type of criminal offense, you should not hesitate to speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney. Contact attorney Edward Molari today to schedule a free case evaluation.