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Can the police search my car for drugs in a Massachusetts drug arrests during a traffic stop?

Those charged with a Massachusetts Drug offense, often have the question of whether a charge of intent to distribute can arise out of a search of the car during a traffic stop. The issue of when a search of a vehicle is proper is a common issue in a Boston drug offense.

  • A traffic stop involves the following legal issues in a Massachusetts Drug Arrest.

A traffic stop, is generally just that. If the officer issues you a citation and has no basis to suspect that you are armed and dangerous or involved in criminal activity, the officer cannot search you or your car.

Under the Massachusetts Constitution, an officer making a routine traffic stop cannot under an individual out of the car. In Massachusetts an exit order from an officer requires the officer to have a reasonable fear for his or her own safety or probable cause to believe evidence of criminal activity will be found in the car.

One line of defense in a stop based on a traffic infraction is to challenge:

  1. The basis of the stop
  2. The legal basis of the exit order.

If there is a basis for the exit order, a police officer will not have authority to conduct a full search of the vehicle unless there is probable cause to believe the vehicle contains evidence of criminal activity.

Searches of a vehicle fall under what is known as the automobile exception to the warrant requirement. Since automobiles are mobile, there is a lesser expectation of privacy; however, a car is still protected under the Fourth Amendment meaning that a police officer needs probable cause to believe your car contains evidence of criminal activity prior to a search. If you are arrested, an officer may also search your car under what is known as the inventory search exception to the warrant requirement.

If you discover that the police conducted an illegal search and are able to prove it in court, then the evidence against you may be thrown out. This may lead to a reduction or a dismissal of your drug charges. If you have questions about a Drug arrest please call 781-686-5924 to discuss your case.