Vehicle Search and Seizure

The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution is a topic for argument within many courts still today. The New York courts have encouraged the implementation of tougher laws with regard to traffic and drug activity when combined. As a result, New York now has one of the toughest laws pertaining to vehicle search and seizures following any traffic stop. In instances where reasonable suspicion has already been confirmed, officers have the duty to proceed once probable cause has been established. While many do not agree with this current statute, it is a law that is currently ruling the State of New York.

Background The following scenario is given for the purpose of discussion and explanation of the law as it applies to members of the community. Two officers were performing their nightly duties. While doing so, a vehicle runs a stop sign within their plain view. The officers stop the vehicle and continue to explain to the driver of the vehicle why the stop was made. During the course of the vehicle stop, the smell of marijuana protrudes from within the vehicle prompting the officers to request that all people in the vehicle exit at once. Drugs were found in the front passenger side of the vehicle.

All four of the vehicle persons were placed under arrest. Analysis Although the New York Laws for vehicle search and seizure are ever-changing, officers must still adhere to the rules of reasonable suspicion and probable cause (New York, 2010). The smell of marijuana would prompt any officer, or reasonable person, to believe that it would be more likely than not that marijuana was within the contents of the vehicle. The scenario did not elaborate as to whether or not the driver seemed to be under the influence of an illegal substance, nor did it make mention of whether or not there was any smoke or fog exiting the vehicle.

The LEGAL ISSUES 3 officers were clearly charged with relying on their senses in order to make the warrantless arrests. The officers in charge arrested the four occupants of the vehicle once the illegal drugs were found to be within the confines of the vehicle. Unfortunately, not all four of the individuals could have been legally arrested (New York, 2010).

The driver of the vehicle would most assuredly be legally arrested, and even more so if the vehicle was found to be registered in his or her name. Secondly, the front seat passenger would also be legally under arrest since the illegal substance, drugs, was found within his area of occupancy in the vehicle. Presumably, the illegal substance would most likely have belonged to him or her. These two warrantless arrests were legal because probable cause had been established following the establishment of reasonable suspicion from the smell of marijuana emanating from the vehicle (Campbell, 2010).

The two passengers sitting in the backseat of the vehicle could not be legally arrested as they were only in the vehicle, but not in the true proximity of the illegal substance to be declared in possession. The two passengers should be afforded the opportunity to give their statements concerning the matter following any questions from the officers on the scene. Too often, bystanders will not offer up any information in the fear that it may incriminate them legally. Many will demand the presence of an attorney before answering any questions even if they are not under arrest.

Discussion The case of Chimel v. California, 395 U. S. 752 made a landmark decision concerning matters of searches and seizures with regard to warrants (1969). The case determined that if a warrant is executed in good faith, then the search and seizure is thereby justified. The Supreme LEGAL ISSUES 4 Court also ruled that the search may not go beyond the area that the suspect is in control or possession of (1969).

Essentially, what this means is that while the occupants were ordered to exit the vehicle on reasonable suspicion, where probable cause had not yet been proven, the only thing that the officers could have legally searched at that moment was their individual person. The scenario did not clarify as to whether or not the officers had requested permission and consent to search. With regard to the new penal code of New York, officers are no longer allowed to ask for consent to search (Campbell, 2010). The case of U. S. v. Belton, 453 U. S. 454 is a little different but much the same (1981).

The Supreme Court ruled that after an arrest is made, the entire passenger compartment of the vehicle may be searched and is subject to search. The legal standard for meeting the rule for probable cause is far more relaxed in these instances, which has prompted many attorneys and legal scholars to argue the point (1981). This case also made a mark on the justice system as many warrantless arrests are held in all account to the legitimacy of this case and its decision. Conclusion It is difficult to ascertain the true nature of the case at hand from the brief scenario provided.

Many ifs, ands, or buts can be asserted which would change the opinion of the situation entirely. Suffice it to say, in order for any officer to arrest someone without a warrant in hand, reasonable suspicion must first be established. Secondly, probable cause must be true in nature and event. Finally, the arresting officer or officers must be truly secure in knowing that every step and detail of the law has been followed. Technicalities and minor oversights can make a guilty party free and make a good officer untrustworthy in his or her work.

References Campbell, J. (2010). New York search and seizure: police may not ask for consent to search a vehicle stopped for a traffic infraction. Retrieved from http://www. newyorkcriminalatt orneyblog. com/2010/03/new_york_search_and_seizurepol_1. html Chimel v. California, 395 U. S. 752 (1969). New York. (2010). N. Y. cpl. law § 2. 20: ny code-section 2. 20: powers of peace officers. Retrieved from http://codes. lp. findlaw. com/nycode/CPL/ONE/A/2/2. 20 New York v. Belton, 453 U. S. 454 (1981).