Can An Officer Legally Search Your Vehicle Because Your Are Nervous?
Nervous Is Not Enough
A nervous driver is not enough to establish the necessary probable cause for an officer to search the vehicle without consent. However, if a person is acting overly nervous during a traffic stop an officer will assume that there is something in the car that is illegal. Officers interact with people on traffic stops routinely and they understand that people are normally nervous during a traffic stop because they are worried about getting a ticket. However, when a person is overly nervous an officer is normally going to ask for consent to search the vehicle. If the driver refuses to consent to a vehicle search then the officer is going to walk around the vehicle and look inside to see if anything illegal is in plain view that would give the officer probable cause to search the vehicle. If a drug dog is available an officer may request a dog to walk around the vehicle to determine if any illegal drugs are present.
Continued Detention Is Illegal Without Probable Cause
The officer must be actively engaged in completing the traffic stop throughout the traffic stop. An officer cannot question the driver about matters unrelated to the traffic stop or do other things unrelated to the traffic stop to obtain extra time for a drug dog to arrive to walk around the vehicle. The officer only has as long as is necessary to complete the traffic stop by either writing the driver a ticket or giving the driver a warning to establish probable cause to search the vehicle without consent or to establish probable cause to justify the continued detention of the driver. Once the purpose for the traffic stop has ended then the officer must have probable cause for the continued detention of the driver. If the officer does not have probable cause for the continued detention of the driver after the completion of the traffic stop then any illegal items obtained as a result of that illegal detention can be suppressed with a motion to suppress.
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