Can police officers search personal bags in car?

Asked almost 2 years ago - Salt Lake City, UT

The officer said he smelled weed in the car, and after searching the car found nothing and then searched my bag that was in the car. My bag didn't smell at all, and he found a small cigarette looking pipe deep within my bag that i forgot was even in there

Attorney answers (4)

  1. Jarom Bangerter

    Contributor Level 7

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    Answered . and were you charged with anything? Depending on the full facts here it very well could be that there is a search warrant violation here. Closed containers normally require a search warrant. If you are facing criminal charges based on this fact pattern you should do a free consultation with an attorney.

  2. Michael Taylor Meehan

    Contributor Level 11

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    Answered . Technically they are not allowed to search "closed containers" without an exception. Exigent circumstances or a warrant.

    If the driver was arrested, the police may go with "inventory search" of the vehicle pending impounding.

    I think you should hire a good criminal attorney and fight the "illegal search."

  3. Curtis Lamar Harrington Jr

    Contributor Level 20

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    Answered . If bag means pillow case or sack, what is the difference between a bag and "no-bag"?

    If a bag means a steel suitcase with combination lock with lettering indicating that it belongs to someone definitely not you, then maybe the police need a warrant.

    However, if a crime occurs and they take your automobile, they will need to inventory the contents and a steel suitcase would be part of the contents, and the owner might have a chance to ask for a TRO / suppression before a warrant issued for its search.

    That pretty much colors in a continuum between "paper bag" and steel container in trunk, with all other facts and circumstances falling in between.

    In addition, there is the question of how you came to be pulled over and whether that was legitimate, and which prefaces the question of "what sort of container it was within".

    Hire an attorney and explore every avenue: (1) propriety of the stop, (2) opportunity to smell, (3) location and type of bag, (4) whether locked, and much much more.

    Curt Harrington Patent & Tax Law Attorney Certified Tax Specialist by the California Board of Legal... more
  4. Douglas Holbrook

    Contributor Level 17

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    Answered . For a number of reasons, including those spelled out by my colleagues, there appear to be some serious questions regarding the search.

Related Topics

Vehicle searches

A vehicle search is only legal if there is probable cause. However, if you give permission, even if the officer doesn't have probable cause, a search is legal.

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