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    I was a passenger in a car that was pulled over in Philadelphia. I was arrested for drugs and a gun. Can I win my case?

    In Pennsylvania, especially in Philadelphia, individuals are often charged with drug possession, drug dealing or illegal gun possession after getting pulled over for a traffic violation.

    One of the key issues in these cases is whether the arresting officer had a valid, lawful reason to 1. stop the car and 2. search the car or personal items in the car. Although there may be other ways to win a criminal case, this FAQ will focus entirely on the constitutional issues involving search.

    Criminal cases accepted in Philadelphia, Delaware County, Chester County, Montgomery County & Scranton/Lackawanna County. FREE CONSULTATIONS (215) 564-0644

    Did Police Have a Legal Reason to Stop the Car?

    In Philadelphia, police officers are known for conducting pretextual traffic stops. Some officers even fabricate traffic violations, like crossing a center line or failing to stop at a stop sign. In order to win a criminal case in these situations, there must be proof that the traffic violation didn’t happen, which isn’t easy to get. Officers will never admit to fabricating a traffic stop. In some cases, there might be evidence that the supposed traffic violation didn’t happen or was impossible.

    For example, an officer pulled over a car for having a faulty brake light. However, the brake lights were fixed just days before the traffic stop, and the same mechanic takes a look at the brakes after the traffic stop and is 100% sure that the brakes were working properly. This might be enough to convince a judge that the officer fabricated the faulty brake light and pulled the car over illegally. In addition, a skilled criminal trial lawyer may be able to effectively cross examine an officer and convince a judge that the officer was wrong or fabricated the traffic violation.

    Why Did the Officer Search the Car?

    An officer who searches a car and its contents, including personal items of a driver or passenger, must have legal basis to do so. By far, consent to search is one of the most common and legally valid reasons for the search. If a driver or passenger consents to a search, courts aren’t likely to rule that the search was illegal.

    If the driver or passenger didn’t consent to a search (or wasn’t even asked for consent), an officer is legally allowed to search a car and personal items in the car if one of the following is true:

    • the officer had probable cause that the car contained illegal contraband, or
    • the driver was arrested for a crime, such as a DUI.

    In some instances, an officer may be able to quickly pat down a driver or passenger if the officer has reasonable suspicion of criminal activity. This is known as a Terry stop and may happen during a traffic stop when the officer orders the occupants out of the vehicle.  Click here for an explanation of the difference between reasonable suspicion and probable cause.

    David S. Nenner

    "Top Rated Criminal Defense Lawyer"
    (2015-2022)

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