Search warrants: The need for probable cause

Perhaps you committed a minor traffic offense in North Carolina, and an officer pulled over your vehicle. The officer asks you whether you would consent to a search of your car as the officer believes he or she smells marijuana coming from your vehicle. If you refuse, the officer says that the court will implement a warrant to search, but if you consent, you worry you will face charges for possession of marijuana.

Many individuals have questions regarding searches and seizures. The most important aspect of a legal search involves the presence of probable cause. Should an officer believe that you have illegal marijuana in your vehicle due to the smell, this may constitute probably cause to retrieve a search warrant. However, if you believe you have only committed a minor traffic violation and probable cause is not present, you have the authority to refuse a search.

Should you face charges due illegal substances found during a conducted search and seizure, you must speak with a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible to understand your rights. Defense attorneys have years of experience and can identify when officers conduct searches and seizures illegally.

Search warrants and seizures

According to North Carolina law, search warrants allow officers to search the following areas for illegal activities.

  1. Premises: Homes, apartments, workplaces and other property
  2. Vehicles: Cars, trucks, boats and other automobiles
  3. Persons: Your clothes, shoes and body

Doing so, officers can obtain contraband, weapons or other illegal materials. Probable cause must exist before an officer asks to search property or issues a search warrant. Probable cause could mean that:

  • An officer noticed paraphernalia or drugs in your vehicle in plain sight.
  • An officer reviewed your history as a known drug offender.
  • An officer believes your vehicle is stolen.
  • An officer can smell marijuana.

Anything found during a search warrant procedure may have the authority to be presented in court as evidence to a crime.

If you consented to a search or had to allow a search due to an issued warrant, and an officer found illegal substances, speak immediately to an attorney. Though punishments for various drug-related crimes prove significant in North Carolina, criminal defense attorneys know how to defend actions in court and find ways to protect you from prosecution.

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