Can a police officer search your trunk without a warrant?
I was pulled over yesterday for speeding. There was a K-9 involved and they searched my car, broke my radio and dashboard then proceeded to open my trunk (without my consent) that is only accessible with the key. Should i hire a lawyer and take action against the police officer? I was always under the impression that a warrant is needed to search a trunk.
A drug dog alert provides probable cause for a longer detention than normally would have been allowable. However, once the dog alerts, there are two choices - detain you and your vehicle while a warrant for search is obtained from a judge, or just go ahead and perform the search knowing that if anything is found it may be suppressed because there was no warrant. Some cops are such cowboys that they cannot wait even for a judge to sanction what they intend to do and blunder ahead. Suppression, if something is found, is the imperfect method for teaching cops like that to not be cowboys, that citizens have rights they cannot infringe. In cases where the cowboys come up empty, the citizen is left without recourse unless they take action on principle.
I would certainly see a local civil rights attorney who can examine all the facts involved here - such situations are so exactingly fact specific that to say anything without all the facts would be foolhardy, and who can research the latest case law on vehicle searches under these or similar circumstances. At the very least you may be entitled to have your vehicle repaired and maybe you can help teach the police to think twice before going ahead without the sanction of a warrant.
As a side note - consider that they had sought a warrant. It would have likely been granted and the search proceeded. In such a case their action would have been insulated by judicial immunity and you probably would have been out of luck.
See an attorney, get a repair estimate for your truck, and good luck.
You don't mention but did they find anything? Were you arrested? They probably did need a warrant. If the dog was a drug sniffing dog and it alerted to your dashboard and your trunk, then the police would argue that they had probable cause to detain you and to get a warrant. But if they found nothing and damaged your vehicle they may be liable for the damages. Perhaps one of my Florida colleagues who practices criminal law can give you a more precise answer. But in the meantime, under the place where you can add to your answer you should include whether they found any contraband in your car and arrested you or not. And whether the dog alerted to something in your car.
The foregoing is offered for informational purposes only and is not legal advice nor does it create an attorney-client relationship but if the answer was helpful, kindly check the thumbs-up box below.
They can always search the trunk. If they find something, there are evidentiary issues that criminal defense attorneys can bring up to get evidence thrown out.
THESE COMMENTS ARE NOT LEGAL ADVICE. They are provided for informational purposes only. Actual legal advice can only be provided after consultation by an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction. Answering this question does not create an attorney-client relationship or otherwise require further consultation.